Willobie His Avisa


Willobie His Avisa The Solution


The Mechanism of the Device


Willobie His Avisa Decoded

By Michael Mooten.

Joy and Michael  Hawaii 2014

My  paper  The Old Suitor- A new Allusion to William Shakespeare has been published  in   the scholarly journal Discoveries link is  http://www.scrc.us.com/discoveries/latest-posts/ - Also see see link to  Discoveries journal in Links section.  In this paper I show a previously unrecognized allusion to William Shakespeare  in Richard Barnfield's Affectionate Shepherd also  discuss the link between Willobie His Avisa and The Affectionate Shepherd.  - I hope to  see you there !

The central purpose of the libel Willobie his Avisa is not to praise Avisa - It is to attack  The Lady Penelope Rich...

M.Mooten .


A new reading of the work Willobie His Avisa is offered. The book is demonstrated to be a libel written in the satirical style of Ironia. The book is shown to be part of an ongoing string of libels by the same author that ran identical narratives , targeted the same people and were released in close proximity to each other.

The decoded version of this libel reveals information that is already known to us but also that is new to us.

This new information has very significant implications for our understanding of William Shakespeare and the Essex circle.

A positive identification is made of the book's central character ? Avisa? and

a methodology shall be forwarded that once employed  unlocks the libel and explains the true meaning of the work and the agenda that its author was working to.

A brief discussion of who authored the book and the reasons why it was written shall follow.

1: The background of Willobie His Avisa.

Willobie His Avisa first published 3rd September 1594 is

 a narrative poem that has always been of relevance to Shakespearian scholars because it contains the earliest known independent reference to Shakespeare.

In addition the book contains a tantalizing dialog between one W.S. and one H.W. both of whom are in love with an unknown woman known as Avisa.

Avisa has never been formally identified and the author admits that Avisa is a feigned name. The author forwards a Latinate acronym for A.V.I.S.A. as being Amans. Uxor. Inviolata. Sempre. Amanda which translates to a A loving wife who never violates her faith is always to be beloved. But this is simply telling us what Avisa's qualities supposedly are but not who she is.

Many scholars are of the opinion that W.S. represents William Shakespeare and H.W. represents his patron Henry Wriothesley. 3rd Earl of Southampton.

The introduction states that the book was edited and published by a university friend of the Henry Willobie of the title called Hadrian Dorell.

Dorell informs us that Willobie was a scholar of good hope and that he was a close friend of Dorell who he trusted with the keys to his chamber.

Henry Willobie he claims is no longer present or contactable because he wanted to see other countries and is presently abroad in her majesties service at the time of publication.

Dorell goes on to explain that he found the manuscript of Willobie His Avisa amongst papers in Willobie's Oxford chamber and presumed that it had been written by Willobie himself consequently published the work without either Willobie's knowledge or consent.

Dorrell presents himself as being a deeply religious puritan and invokes the cardinal virtues of fortitude temperance, prudence and justice however he doesn't seem to adhere to these Christian concepts and frequently reveals himself to be an untrustworthy liar.

There is also a strong misogynistic undercurrent present in all of his diatribes. 

Dorell's tone seems to me to be smug mocking and didactic and very suggestive of someone who has inside information about the book.

None of his frequent apologies  appear to be sincere and no historical trace of a Hadrian Dorell has ever been found and the name is widely believed to be a pseudonym.

The full mechanism by which this manuscript has supposedly been released should immediately raise our suspicions that it is either a libel or contains objectionable material because what we have is an editor with a pseudonym and an equally non contactable author. This and similar types of devices were used in contemporary libels when the real author wanted to remain anonymous.

I  do not subscribe to Dorell's version of events and am deeply skeptical that Henry Willobie was the real author of this work.

In contrast to Dorell Henry Willobie can be demonstrated to have been a real person.

He was born in West Knoyle Wiltshire and entered St John's College Oxford as a commoner in 1591. Very little is known about his life in the 1596 edition of Willobie His Avisa Hadrian Dorell reveals that he is dead.

Despite its dubious artistic merit the work proved very popular and was republished six times between 1594 and 1635. The 1596 edition is of particular interest because it contains additional material.

The poem introduces us to its heroine chaste Avisa who is presented first as a modest maid then as a chaste and constant wife who rejects the advances of six suitors of varying ages, personalities and nationalities.

The scholar G.B. Harrison believed that the book was not as innocent as it seemed and that the initials of the suitors covered or rather revealed to contemporaries people of great importance , so great that the scandals about them were still commercially worth retailing forty years after first publication.

2: The importance of Willobie His Avisa.

In all of Elizabethan literature Willobie His Avisa is the only text that has the potential to independently confirm the famous love triangle of Shakespeare's sonnets.

If W.S. and H.W. can be shown to represent William Shakespeare and Henry Wriothesley then the book would become of critical importance to Shakespearean studies. I think that the book is indeed referring to Shakespeare and Wriothesley and is vital to our understanding of the Shakespearean sonnets because it can name the protagonists of those sonnets and date the events that the sonnets describe.

Unfortunately the book Willobie His Avisa is notoriously opaque .

The Key to understanding this libel is to recognize and understanding the fundamental mechanism by which it is functioning.

In addition it was not recognized that Willobie His Avisais linked to a string of other libels that ran a parallel narrative and were released in close proximity toWillobie His Avisa and were written by the same author.

I shall also look at  a companion libel Penelope's Complaint that I believe is helpful in helping us to understand Willobie His Avisa.

I proceed with the assumption that the reader is already fully familiar with both works.

3: The identification of Willobie His Avisa as a libel.

The first and most essential step is to determine precisely what type of work Willobie His Avisa is . The options are fiction , non fiction, joke hoax or libel.

I discount the possibility of Willobie His Avisa being a joke because very little attempt has been made to inject humor of any kind into the work.

If the book was a hoax then the perpetrator had been unusually persistent because Willobie His Avisa was published six times over a forty year time frame. Close reading of the book reveals that it had the potential to be construed as being an insult to the Queen. This was a crime punishable by death.

The work is far too malicious and persistent simply to be a harmless university prank.

I doubt the book is a work of fiction , it does not read like any work of Elizabethan fiction that I am familiar with and if the work was entirely fictional then we would have to question why the author would feel the need to deliberately disguise the identities of both Avisa and her suitors.

3 a :The Power of libels.

 In the Elizabethan age the boundaries of social rank were well defined and people were in no doubt as to what class they belonged to.

The commoners had far less power than the aristocracy , however the commoners had one powerful weapon in their arsenal and that was the libel. The Elizabethan age was an age of libels  and it was through libels that commoners were able to attack the most powerful people in the country. Even institutions such as the Anglican  church were targeted and the Anglican bishops   were fiercely  attacked by the  Martin Marprealate libel sequence.

The libel writers  knew the power of their own work. The Marprelate libels were considered a national crisis and the Cecils had to employ professional writers to counter them.  Libels were also used to shame aristocracy. In the early 1590's the Jesuit Father Robert Persons was personally ;libeling both William and Robert Cecil and calling into question the Cecils aristocratic status. Outraged William Cecil had his family tree formally published in an attempt to dispel these allegations.- Robert Persons would have been splitting his sides with laughter at this.

Philip Sidney's uncle, Robert Dudley (One of the Queen's favorites) was targeted in Leicester's Commonwealth a crude libel that had to be suppressed. The author of Willobie His Avisa  would have seen the libels of his age and would have been encouraged to have seen the ways in which a libel could influence the behavior of an aristocrat. The author of Willobie His Avisa  was not writing with solely the ambition of notoriety - the author was attempting  to manipulate the behavior of aristocrats in such a way that would favor himself.

My years of studying Willobie His Avisa have made me realize that it is a sophisticated libel that even has some artistic merit . Such accomplished  libels were known as pasquils   .

Willobie his Avisa is not a harmless work rather it is a pasquil of the highest order . The level of sophistication of this libel and the negative way that the work depicts aristocrats makes it certain that it is a work that is attacking a circle of aristocrats -and we need to understand it...

4:Hundreth Sundry Flowers.

Willobie his Avisa  shows strong similarities to one book in particular  and that is George Gascoignes  Hundreth Sundry Flowers 1573 . Willobie His Avisa even takes direct quotes from this work.

Hundreth Sundry Flowers was a notorious book  that purported to be an anthology of poems but was actually a work describing courtly scandal.

Willobie His Avisa clearly has been modeled after Gascoigne's work . Elizabethan readers would recognize this and immediately be suspicious that like Gascoigne's work the book was hinting at a real life scandal.

I do not remotely believe that George Gascoigne was the author of this libel . We need to remember that libelling an Aristocrat could potentially cost the libel writer his life . This means that the libel writer would have been taking every  precaution not to be identified.

The adoption of an archaic writing style  in the style of George Gascoigne would be such a precaution.

I do not think the author of Willobie His Avisa was George Gascoigne but rather was a young writer who greatly admired Gascoigne and consciously imitated Gascoigne's most controversial work One Hundredth Sundry  Flowers .

The subtitle of Willobie His Avisa is The true picture of a modest maid and a chaste wife. Hadrian Dorell in the introduction states that the work is not fiction and that it is in some part or altogether true but that the work has been poetically shadowed and that if the reader wants to know Avisa's identity then close attention must be paid to her place of abode and of her suitors and their speeches.

I agree with Dorell and believe that the work is indeed recording real events that are being presented in a poetic and libelous format.

The tone of the book is satirical and whimsical but once we decode the book we recognize that it is a severe libel that is targeting Avisa herself.

The Elizabethans themselves had no doubt that the book was a libel and officially classed it as such. Its further publication was suppressed and the book was recalled and burned.

This is a certain indicator that Willobie His Avisa was a libel that was upsetting powerful people. In this context we will define a libel as being the publication of statements that expose a person or group of people to public ridicule. Libelous statements may be partially orentirely true. And this is exactly what I class Willobie His Avisa as being, a largely non-fictional libel.

It is clear that the publication of Willobie His Avisa had resulted in significant controversy and in the 1596 edition Hadrian Dorell makes another address to the readers and this time appears to be going into damage control.

He now states that the work was entirely fictional ,that Avisa represents no specific woman and insinuates thatWillobie His Avisa was actually 35 years old and that author of Willobie His Avisa was also the author of the anonymous work The Ballard of Constant Susanna. All of these statements give credence to Willobie His Avisabeing a non fictional work that was upsetting real people. If the work was fictional there would be no need for such radical refutations.

It is certain that Dorell's refutations are incorrect. Henry Willobie was certainly not the author of Constant Susannahe was only 19 years of age in 1594 The Ballard of Constant Susanna dates to at least 1562.

Arthur Acheson in his book Mistress Davenant The dark lady of Shakespeare's sonnets on the basis of stylistic similarities conferred authorship of Constant Susanna to Mathew Roydon then forwarded Roydon as being the most likely author of Willobie His Avisa.

But again there are problems with this, Constant Susanna predates the birth of Mathew Roydon also.

I do not believe that Willobie His Avisa was already 35 years old at the time of its first publication .The first edition contains contemporary references to William Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece which had been published only three months prior to Willobie His Avisafirst release. This firmly dates Willobie His Avisa to 1594 and Dorell's attempt to date the work much earlier needs to be seen as an escape mechanism for the real author who  was personally feeling the heat following the first publication .

Mathew Roydon is frequently cited as being the real author of Willobie His Avisa but I disagree and examine this topic in depth in my authorship essay.

The identification of Willobie His Avisa as being a libel starts with an investigation of its title page.

on the title page appears the Biblical proverb 17.4 which states ? A virtuous woman is the crown of her husband but she that maketh him ashamed is as corruption in his bones?.

It is most surprising to see this proverb about female infidelity on the title page of a book that is purporting to describe a chaste woman who is the victim of immoral male suitors.

The full meaning of this proverb becomes apparent when we take it from its biblical setting which reads, ? He that is plagued with a bad wife is as miserable as if he were upon a dunghill, for she is no better than rotteness in his bones, an incurable disease, beside that she makes him ashamed. She that is silly and slothful, wasteful and wanton, passionate and ill tounged ruins both the credit and comfort of her husband?.

The title page of Willobie His Avisa sports a fine illustration by the leading Elizabethan engraver William Rogers we should be very suspicious that the titlepage is casting further light on the text because other books of the time notably Spencer's Shepherds Calendar contained wood cut engravings that directly related to the text.

A close examination of this illustration reveals multiple references to cuckoldry.

An important observation is that nowhere on the title page does the name Henry Willobie appear as being the author of this work  this immediately casts  doubt on the authorship of this work.

The centerpiece of the illustration is the head of an Ass two boys are holding stag antlers against this head. A crescent moon appears behind behind the head. This is a double allusion to cuckoldry . Stags antlers and crescent moons were both Elizabethan allusions to cuckoldry.The overarching theme here is that of a husband who is being made a cuckold

On the left flank of the picture Pallas Athena appears resplendent in her armor but on the right flank a bedraggled Diana ( virgin goddess of the hunt and moon) is depicted and she appears to be heavily pregnant.

In the oval portion of the title page is a scene from the myth of Actaeon and Artemis which shows Acteon starting to grow stag antlers on his head after observing Artemis bathing.

Again this is a reference to cuckoldry, the Elizabethan saying ?To grow horns like Acteon? means you are being cuckolded. The fact that a ?virgin? goddess is shown as being pregnant is an indication that cuckoldry and female immorality are central themes of this book.

It is also a warning that we need to be very suspicious of any character in this work who claims to be chaste very notably Avisa herself.

A brief apology to all the constant Ladies and Gentlewoman of England that fear God follows it states ?Pardon me ( Sweet ladies) if at this time I deprive you of a just apology in defense of your constant chastities .?

What Hadrian Dorell is admitting here is that the work that is being presented is not an argument that is supportive of chastity .

This is very much at odds with the text of Willobie His Avisa which insists that it is a moralistic tale of a chaste woman called Avisa our index of suspicion is raised from the start of the book that the full book may be a work of irony.

In the introduction a poem appears written by yet another unknown author one Abell Emet this is called In commendation of Willobie His Avisa it reads,

?To Willoby you worthy dames yield worthy praise,

Whose silver pype so sweetly sounds your strange delayes

Whose lofty style, with golden wings remounts your fame,

The glory of your princely sex, the spotless name:

O happy wench , who so she if any be

That thus deserved thus to be praised by Willobie.?

In commendation of Willobie His Avisa lines 1-6

 the term strange delayes is likely being used as a double entendre that is implying sexual dalliances.

What this poem is telling us is that Willobie is a poet who writes ironically about ?the virtues? of immoral women and that these immoral women should praise him because he is such a great poet that he can reframe their reputations into a positive light .

By this definition any woman to be worthy of praise by Willobie must first be an immoral woman.

This straight away is setting the tone for the full book and we must immediately be suspicious of the woman who gets Willobies undivided praise ? Avisa herself.

5: Light on the Dark Lady.

In her outstanding paper Light on the Dark Lady The Shakespearean Scholar Pauline .K.Angell came to the same conclusion - that the full work Willobie His Avisa was an ironic libel. More recently Dr Ian Wilson also recognized the book as being a libel,  I greatly respect the work of both of these scholars. However Pauline Angell identified Avisa as being Elizabeth Trentham  this identification cannot be correct because the poem states that Avisa and her husband have been married for ten years, By 1594 this was correct for Penelope Rich but not for Elizabeth Trentham who was married in 1591.

Angell correctly identified Willobie His Avisa as being a libel but she missed the crucial fact that the full book is an attack on a woman called Penelope.

Dr Wilson was the first person to recognize that the book was libeling Penelope Rich - I entirely agree . 

6:The mechanisms of the devices

 used in the libel Willobie his Avisa.

The defining trait of libels is that they work to a ?device ' . In this instance a device is defined as being a literary construct that camouflages a hidden and often libelous meaning. A device could be as simple as calling someone an insulting name other devices as we shall see could be far more sophisticated.

The only way for us to understand Willobie His Avisatoday is to study identify and understand the mechanisms of the multiple devices that are at work in this very sophisticated libel.

7:The first mechanism isolate and identify.

The two most important portions of Willobie His Avisa lie within the introduction and the final poem The Victory of English Chastity. In both portions Hadrian Dorell claims to explain the true meaning of Willobie his Avisa and he most certainly does. In the introduction a mysterious poem appears called In praise of Willobie His Avisa hexameton to the author. This is a complex and challenging poem that needs careful attention because it is key to understanding the full book .It is the book's most famous passage, researchers all seem to think that it is a vital passage in the book ,

In Lavine land through Livie bost

There hath been scene a constant dame:

Though Rome lament that she has lost

The garland of her rarest fame.

Lavine land refers to the land owned by Lavinia daughter of the king of Latium this land would later become Rome itself. The poem is stating that the Roman historian Livi has written about Lucrece boasting that she was a woman of chastity . The poem then is stating that all of Rome is in mourning because she has lost her famed chastity.

The author also seems to be familiar with the workMatilda which contains the quote ?Lucrece of whom proud Rome hath boasted for so long?. Matilda was written by Michael Drayton and was also released in 1594.

Now we see that here is found

As great a faith in English ground.

Though Collantine have deerly bought,

To high renowne, a lasting life

And found that most in vain have sought v,

To have a fair and constant wife.

With these lines the author is giving a new interpretation of the Lucrece myth , an interpretation that is very Augustinian in its outlook and in direct contradiction to the version of the rape of Lucrece that was offered by both Livi and Shakespeare. Also an insinuation that Shakespeare is not an original writer and has plagiarised Livi is present.

In this revised version Lucrece is depicted as being unchaste and her husband Collantine is being made to be the victim.

This is very much a puritanical Elizabethan version of the Lucrece story. In Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece , Lucrece is concerned that she has been impregnated by Tarquin. Elizabethans had a bizarre law that stated that a woman could not be impregnated unless she climaxed during intercourse so if pregnancy occurred following a rape it was legally not considered to have been a rape because the woman had enjoyed it therefore the sex was consensual.

What this verse is saying is that Lucrece has shamed Collantine because she has effectively cuckolded him.

The verse is also stating that the praise that Livi bestows on Lucrece is undeserved and that the habit of idealizing unchaste woman has spread to England and that it is a fault that Shakespeare is guilty of.

We immediately recognize that that this poem is cynically rewriting Shakespeare's Rape of Lucreece and also that a definite affront to Shakespeare is being made. If Shakespeare is a writer who idealizes immoral women who make cuckolds of their husband then by extension he is an immoral person himself .

This is a more severe insult than Robert Greene directed at Shakespeare. (Greene was calling Shakespeare an under educated plagiarist but not an immoral person).

Willobie His Avisa is now emerging as an ironic parody and reaction against both Shakespeare and his work The Rape of Lucrece.

If Willobie His Avisa is an ironic and misogynistic reply to the concept of a chaste heroine such as is found in Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece then we can naturally expect that its heroine will be the opposite to Shakespeare's chaste and moral Lucrece .Instead she will be an immoral and unchaste woman who will bring death and dishonor to her suitors.

With this poem the author is revealing himself as being a cynical writer with an extremely misogynistic outlook ,and also as a writer who personally does not likeShakespeare and does not think highly of his works.

In the introduction Dorrel gives positive appraisals of the writers Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser but he doesnot place Shakespeare in this group of admired writers.It also becomes clear that criticism of William Shakespeare and ridicule of his works is an important theme of Willobie His Avisa.

Yet Tarquyne pluckt his glistering grape

And Shake-speare paints poore Lucrece rape.

This is a quote that comes from Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece that describes Tarquin's final despoliation of Lucrece prior to which he agonizes over whether to destroy the whole vine for the sake of one sweet grape.

Though Susan shine in faithful praise,

As twinkling stars in christall skie.

Penelop's fame though Greeks do raise

Of faithful wives to make up three

To think the truth and say no lesse,

Our Avisa shall make a messe.

A messe is an Elizabethan word that means a group of four . What this passage is telling us is that a group of four women have been chosen as being faithful wives. They are Lucrece ( despite her earlier criticism) , Penelope, Susan ( from the biblical Susannah) and Avisa.

This number knits so sure a knot

Time doubts that she shall add no more,

Unconstant nature hath begot,

Of fleeting feemes such fickle store.

The author is now fixating on the group of four constant women. And doubts that the goddess of time (Mnemosyme) will add to this group. The author is implying that such women are rare and that nature itself is inconstant and only has a fickle (limited) store of such fleeting women.

The poem now continues and makes a particularly barbed remark...

Two thousand years have scarcely seen

Such as the worst of these has been

This is clearly telling us that something is amiss with one or more members of this group of virtuous women. The author now takes a cue from Ovid and performs a metamorphosis . The women now undergo a poetic metamorphosis into birds of chastity.

Then Avi-Susan joyne in one

Let Lucres-Avis be thy name

And far surmounts all others fame.

Were these three happie that have found

Brave poets to depaint their praise ?

Sweet Willobie his AVIS blest,

That makes her mount above the rest.

We see that Susan and Lucrece become birds of chastity and Avisa emerges as an Eagle but PENELOPE IS CONSPICIOUS BY HER ABSENCE. How has a group of four suddenly shrunk to a group of three ?

The Elizabethans were well versed in the use of rhetorical devices  Occultatio is the  rhetorical device of drawing attention to something by deliberately omitting to mention it.

And that's exactly what is happening here. 

We also notice that a progression is occurring ,each woman's name is coming closer to spelling Avisa

 We start with Avi -Susan , then we have Lucres-Avis , Penelope is not named in this sequence but the sequence is insinuating that her name is going to be Penelope-Avisa.

The Progression must be

Avi Susan ,,,         Avi

Lucris Avis...        Avis

Penelope Avisa...  Avisa

Both Susan and Lucrece have been accounted for so the only explanation is that AVISA AND PENELOPE HAVE BEEN MERGED INTO ONE. NOW THEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME and together they now represent a LIVING ENGLISH WOMAN and consequently Penelope is no longer a figure of Greek mythology.

The poet who has been chosen to depaint (depict) and praise the newly formed Avisa / Penelope is Willobie a poet who we already know only praises and writes ironically about immoral women. And we recall the words of Alexander Pope ?Praise undeserved is satire in disguise?.

The poem is really indicating the birth of Avisa through poetic metamorphosis and describes the perverse Eagle/Phoenix that arises from this metamorphosis.

We notice that an Eagle is definitely not the traditional bird of chastity. Doves swans and turtle doves were the normal birds of chastity but all of these are the prey of the predatory Eagle

the Eagle is the enemy of the birds of chastity.

Hadrian Dorrell tells us that the name Avisa has been chosen because it reflects Avisa's nature.

Dorrell explains that A' Visa  is a Latin derivative  meaning "The bird not seen".

The bird not seen in this poetic metamorphosis is


In later parts of the dialogue Avisa is referred to as the not seen bird  we know the not seen bird is Penelope.

We also realize that the name Penelope can be classically linked to an Eagle. In the Odyssey Penelope has a dream of a huge Eagle that savages a flock of Geese (that represent her suitors) . The author is yet again twisting a legend and in this incarnation he is implying that Avisa/Penelope is herself the Eagle who will savage her suitors. Even the name Penelope has avian connotations Penelope is named after the Penelops which is a water fowl.


The full process of isolating Penelope from a group of four women then merging her with Avisa has been done with great skill and is the literary equivalent of a magician's sleight of hand .

The author has used misdirection with both Lucrece Avis and Avi-Susan , he has also misdirected us by his earlier criticism of Lucrece and unless we read very carefully we simply don't register that he has singled out and merged Penelope and Avisa.

8: Contraria Contrariss Vigilantius: Dormitanus.

The poem is signed Contraia Contrariis Vigilantius Dormitanus this is referring to the famous quarrel between St Jerome and Vigilantius . St Jerome was a religious satirist with staunch views on female chastity his views were challenged by Vigilantius ( The wakefull one) . St Jerome called Vigilantius a heretic and wrote an ironic satire attacking Vigilantius called Contra- Vigilantius ( against Vigilantius) in this libel St Jerome ironically  named Vigilantius ( The wakeful one ) as Dormitanus ( The sleepy one).

The author is referring to this ironic satire in order to reveal how this libel is functioning -The author is grouping opposites together and like St Jerome he is attacking a person by ironically calling them the opposite of what they really are.

Avisa is being attacked in this libel the author thinks she is an unchaste woman so he is ironically calling her the most chaste woman in England.

Contraria Contrariss Vigilantius Dormitanus

translates to If opposites be opposites -wide awake sleepy head this is telling us that the concept of irony and opposites is very important to the book and is also underlining the concept of two opposites co-existing in one person i.e. Wide-awake / sleepy head and Chaste Avisa / Unchaste Penelope.

We are also reminded that one of the well known features of   Elizabethan  rhetoric  was to make  arguments from contraries.

The poem The victory of English Chastity very clearly tells us that  the opposite of Avisa is Penelope. From this we can be certain the real target of this book is a woman called Penelope.

This introductory poem leaves us in no doubt as to who the main targets of this libel are going to be- William Shakespeare and Penelope Rich.

This pivotal introductory poem has now for the first time, been fully decoded.

9:The final poems  Penelope.is singled out again.

Willobie his Avisa finishes with two poems which Dorrell tells us are likely to have been written by Willobie. The first is a song called The resolution of  a chaste and constant wife that minds to continue faithful to her husband . This is Avisa's song and we shall return to this song. However  the song states  that this virtuous bird was married but now has found a friend ( who is not definitely identified as being her husband) and so other suitors should give up their suits because she is now well contented. ( In other words has a contented mind).

This is immediately followed by a long poem  The Praise of a contented mind. This is an interesting poem because like Contraria - Contrariss' earlier poem Penelope is again placed in a group of four woman .

But this time she has been grouped with three notorious women. Eve ( Who is blamed for Adams fall)  Cressida ( A woman Elizabethans considered to be a harlot) And fickle headed Helen of Troy ( another woman The Elizabethans demonized as a harlot).

Of these woman only Penelope is singled out as being content. Therefore the poem really is The praise of contented  Penelope. The poem then finishes with the phrase I am content ever or never .

This is a return to Contraria Contrariss' poem which states  In Willobie His Avisa Opposites are opposites . Therefore we notice this poem is again singling out Penelope if opposites are opposites then Penelope is  the same as these unchaste harlots . and Willobie is now going to "praise" her contented mind .

The poem really means Penelope belongs with a group of proud unchaste woman and she as a proud  adulteress is going to be ironically praised in Willobie His Avisa as a paragon of chastity who is faithful to her husband.

The poem also mentions twinkling stars and fixed stars . We need to remember that Penelope Rich was powerfully linked to stars by Phillip Sidney who called her Stella ( Latin for star).

The Penelope who is being singled out here for" special praise "by Willobie is Stella - Or the adulteress Penelope Rich.

Willobie His Avisa is again  revealing its self as a covert and ironic attack on - The Lady Penelope Rich..

10: Willobie his Avisa uses anti-feminist

 medieval satires as its blue print.

Many Elizabethan writers were familiar with medieval literature ,there can be no doubt whatsoever that the author of Willobie His Avisa was personally very familiar with the Medieval satires. We can know this because the lay out of the introduction and early cantos of Willobie His Avisa are a carbon copy of the way that Medieval satires were presented. Adultery was a major motif of medieval literature and the medieval satires were notoriously misogynistic and would commonly use excessive false praise to attack their target. In WillobieHis Avisa, Avisa is constantly praised for her chastity but the praise is so hyperbolic that it starts to ring hollow.

However more revealing is the structure of medieval satires themselves.

A favored device of medieval satires involved the author disingenuously forwarding a false rhetorical argument then introducing contrasting sets of exempla. Exempla in bono would include virtuous exempla from antiquity from the Bible and from mythology. These would be compared and contrasted with exempla in malo who were nefarious examples who came from the same sources. Then the author would forward an ironic Rara Avis who would ?prove' his insincere and rhetorical argument to be ?correct?.

If we look at Willobie His Avisa we see that this is exactly what Hadrian Dorell is doing.

Hadrian Dorell forwards the argument that England's soil has been tainted with that of Sodom's but that a chaste woman can still be found in England.

We are already familiar with how misogynistic Hadrian Dorell is so we are immediately suspicious that the argument he is forwarding is disingenuous .

Dorell now forwards a number of exempla in bono that include a number of historical women who would rather die than become unchaste. Such as Placilla and Antioche,He also the extols the virtues of the chaste Susannah of the Bible . In addition the mythological exempla of Pallas Athena and Diana are forwarded. It is noted that all Dorell's exempla of Chaste women are either dead or mythological .

This group of exempla is now contrasted against a group of exempla in malo. these include Joan Queen of Naples, Messalina and Cleopatra from antiquity , the whoring Cosbie and Maacha from the Bible  and wanton lustful Venus from mythology.

Quotes are now forwarded from the great poets of antiquity such as Ovid and Juvenal and also from religious preachers such as Friar Mauntaun all of whom argue satirically that chastity has fled the world.

Dorell now refutes their argument and forwards Avisa as the Rara Avis ( she is even physically called a Rara Avis). who will ?disprove? the argument that chastity is no longer seen in England.

Avisa arrives in a blaze of overblown praise that comes from her personal poet Willobie. As we read further into the libel we notice that Avisa constantly acts out of character for a supposedly chaste woman and it becomes very obvious that she has been forwarded as anironic and false Rara Avis.This method of forwarding a rhetorical argument , appearing to present both sides of the argument then ironically abd cynically ?proving? the argument with a false Rara Avis is textbook for a medieval satire.

The identical format of Willobie His Avisa to these anti-feminist medieval satires is irrefutable hard evidence that Willobie His Avisa is a libel that is directly attacking its central heroine Avisa/Penelope.

The medieval satires that Willobie His Avisa has clearly drawn on are Walter Map's anti matrimonial rhetoric ? A letter from Valerius to Ruffinum against marriage. this work appeared in Jankyn's book of wikked wyves and was well known to Elizabethan authors.

The author of Willobie His Avisa also appears to be familiar with the anti feminist rhetoric of Jean de Meuns epic Roman de la Rose which in its argument forwards satirical anti-feminist passages from Juvenal , Jerome ,Ovid, Valerius then counters them with virtuous exempla of Penelope and Lucrece and like Walter Map compares a good woman to a Phoenix and like Juvenal to a black swan.

The author of Willobie His Avisa copies this argument almost ad-verbatim.

11:Ironia the defining mechanism ofWillobie His Avisa.

Roman/Greek , Medieval and Elizabethan satire and libel writers were fully familiar with and frequently used the concept of Ironia in their works.

Ironia is the device of saying the opposite ( contrarium) to the intended meaning. Its hall mark was to ostensibly praise what was infact being condemned. Satires that employed Ironia often bestowed excessive praise onto their target.

We notice the strong references to the concepts of opposites in the poem that we have just decoded In praise of Willobie His Avisa hexameton to the authorwhich is signed by a person who even personifies himself as being an opposite Contraia Contrariss Vigilantius Dormitanus and in doing so is drawing our attention as to how important the concept of opposites are in Willobie His Avisa.

Throughout the book Avisa is constantly described in terms of opposites she is called a heaven or a hell, a heatless fire, a friendly foe, an Eagle rather than a bird of chastity.

Avisa is described as being impeccably chaste but when we carefully read the text we observe that she continually breaks character and behaves in an inconstant fashion.

This is a very real indication that the full book has been written in Ironia.

Ironia is the key device employed in Willobie His Avisa and if we interpret the full work through the lens of Ironia then the full libel and its real meaning becomes entirely transparent.

Willobie His Avisa is identified as an example of a work work written almost entirely in the genre of Ironia. Sarcasmos.( this is the most aggressive form of Ironia). The medieval satirists were accomplished writers who were not primitive in their use of Ironia.

They did not simply write a full libel in Ironia rather Ironia was a mechanism that they ?switched on and off? throughout a narrative.

When the device of Ironia was being employed there was always some hint or gesture within the text that indicated when the device of Ironia had been activated .

I think the author of Willobie His Avisa knew this and used the same device and a number of textual hints signify when the device of Ironia has been? switched on? they are,

1: Whenever the narrator (Willobie praises Avisa)

2 :Any and every speech that Avisa makes , any letter that Avisa writes.

3 :whenever Avisa starts to act out of character.

One other possible indication is that Avisa reveals to the suitor known as The Noble Man that every time that she she sins it shows as a blush on her face.

12: Avisa and Ironia

When we start to apply the concept of Ironia to Avisa herself we realize precisely who the libel is targeting. The central argument of the book is that Avisa is a woman with many suitors but she remains a chaste woman and a constant wife.

 13: Avisa on trial. 

In the 1596 version ofWillobie His Avisa an additional poem appears calledThe Victory of English Chastity. This poem is intended to shed further light on the true meaning of Willobie His Avisa. In this poem Avisa's chastity is put on trial and a competition is held between Avisa and Penelope to determine who is the most chaste wife.

The goddesses Venus and Juno back Penelope whilst the Goddesses Pallas and Diana back Avisa. It is most significant that Juno represents The Goddess of Riches and Venus represents the Goddess of wanton love and both are backing Penelope . The  judgment goes against Penelope and Avisa is given the garland of chastity. The judgment very clearly is that Penelope is an unchaste wife and the poem confirms this.

Some greatly doubt your Grecian dame

Where all is true that poets faine

But chastity who can for shame

Denie she hath and will remain

Where old Penelops doubtful fame

Self chastity may be put to shame.

The Victory of English Chastity lines 144-150 verse 24

This passage is telling us that poets have written about the virtues of chaste Penelope (The Grecian dame) but many people are skeptical as to what has been written about her and that Penelope can put chastity itself to shame. Again we are seeing the author twist a legend and cynically convert a previously chaste woman into an immoral one.

The argument now is that Avisa is a constant and chaste woman who is the opposite of unchaste Penelope.

Much mileage is made in the introduction of Avisa's poverty she is constantly depicted as being a beautiful woman who is poor and in The Victory of EnglishChastity we are told that Penelope boasts about her wealth.

The argument now becomes,

Chaste Avisa Poor is the opposite of Unchaste Penelope Rich

And if we take this argument to its logical conclusion the rules of ironia state that

Untitled  Chaste Avisa Poor IS Unchaste Lady Penelope Rich..

 Avisa and Penelope are the two different aspects of THE SAME WOMAN. And the woman being described is Penelope Rich.

Avisa represents her hypocritically chaste and FALSE PUBLIC PERSONA .

Penelope represents her unchaste hidden and REAL PRIVATE PERSONA.

When we carefully read this libel Avisa keeps dropping hints that she is actually an unchaste woman this is the author's way of reminding us of what the book is really about.

The book is NOT celebrating a woman who is famous for her chastity.

The Book IS libelling a woman who is INFAMOUS for her IN CHASTITY.

If your Avisa has a blot ... The trial of Avisa. 

We now realize that the trial of Avisa's chastity in The Victory of English Chastity is a farcical mock trial because Avisa and Penelope are the same person. In this trial it is not two separate people who are on trialrather it is the two personas of Avisa who are on trialHer Unchaste Persona Penelope who has been created by Juno and Venus is competing against her chaste persona Avisa who has been created by Pallas Athena and Diana.

Very revealingly in the trial Pallas and Diana claim that their Avisa is chaste but cast aspersions on the Avisa of Juno and Venus who they claim to be unchaste. This is a xlear and present hint that there are two Avisa's,The woman that Juno and Venus forward as being chaste is the negative persona of Avisa who is otherwise known asPenelope

We need to remember Avisa was created by four goddesses Pallas Diana Juno and Venus but in Avisa;s trial these four goddesses split into two groups  and seem to be supporting two different  Avisas,

In Avisa;s trial The Avisa that Pallas and  Diana support is exemplary and chaste . But these two goddesses cast aspersions on Juno and Venus' Avisa telling them  . If YOUR Avisa has a blot - yours it is - we know her not. In addition to this  The blotted  Avisa that Venus and Juno support is given a name - Penelope. It is crucial to remember  Juno is the goddess of Riches  and Venus the goddess of sexual desire. Therefore the Avisa that Venus and Juno are supporting is a seductress  called PENELOPE who is associated with riches = In other words. 


The central purpose of Willobie his Avisa is not to praise Avisa...It is to attack PENELOPE RICH.

In the libel the unchaste aspect of Avisa -(Penelope) is constantly alluded to through the device of Ironia.

The device of a false and ironic trial of a womans chastity was a well known literary device used since antiquity . The ironic trial of Cynthia in in the Roman writer Sextus Propertius work Loves epic is a good example.

It also becomes clear that the hidden central purpose of the libel Willobie His Avisa is to be an attack on an unchaste woman named Penelope.

We can be entirely certain of this because in 1596 a second libel related to Willobie His Avisa appeared it was called Penelope's complaint and purported to give Penelope's side of the story it states that Penelope is the chaste woman and that Avisa is a whore, this pamphlet described Avisa as being Poor and Penelope as being Rich and having titles. Again we see the clash of opposites of Avisa Poor and Penelope Rich.

The question we need to ask ourselves is if Willobie His Avisa was not an attack on Penelope then why would there even be a need for a pamphlet like Penelope's Complaint to give Penelope's side of the story and defend her morals that Willobie  His Avisa had called into question ???

 Willobie His Avisa contains over 3139 lines, rhymes throughout and disguises Avisa's identity and the identity of her suitors this is far too much trouble to go to simply to present an argument that the Penelope of Greek legend was an unchaste woman.

The first canto tells us that Avisa (Penelope) is a woman who is widely known we are very aware at this point that the only high profile Penelope in Elizabethan England who was entangled in an adultery scandal was Penelope Rich.

We now understand that the full libel of Willobie his Avisa is going to be a misogynistic reaction against the Shakespearian concept of a chaste heroine and instead it is going to present a cynical and perverse rewriting of the myth of Penelope and her suitors and in this new version Penelope is going to be a woman who outwardly pretends to be chaste but in reality is an immoral woman who sleeps with her suitors.

14: The name Avisa

In the 1596 edition Dorrel explains the reason why the name Avisa has been chosen and explains that it has been taken from the Latin Avis for bird and also from the Latin word Visum meaning seen and the participle A' means not so the name A'Visa means not seen. But what Dorell is really telling us is that Avisa is a compound name and if we link these two definitions together it becomes Avisa = The bird not seen.

Avisa is personally called a ?not seen bird ? a number of times in the book.

This is a constant reminder back to the device that was seen in Hexameton to the Author where four women were merged into three and emerged as birds of chastity but the bird not seen in that device was Penelope.This is the authors way of reminding us that every time he uses the name Avisa he is really meaning Penelope.

In the introduction a quote appears from Juvenal's sixth Satire and states ? A chaste woman is like a black swan never seen on land or in the air?

Black swans were believed not to exist and were not discovered until late the 17th century so this quote is not

 saying that a chaste woman is rare it is ironically stating that a chaste woman is an impossibility.

In calling Avisa a not seen bird the author is yet again being a misogynist and cynically rewriting a proverb and replacing the Black swan with Avisa .In other words he isexchanging one statement of impossibility for another.

The proverb would now read Chastity is like Avisa a bird not seen. This is an insinuation that finding chastity on the earth is as an impossible task as finding chastity in Avisa herself.

In doing this Dorrel is confirming to us that his central argument that Avisa is a chaste woman who cannot be compared to unchaste Penelope is disingenuous and that Willobie his Avisa from start to finish is a cynical and misogynistic libel that is attacking Penelope Rich.

15:Avisa a pun on adviser ?

John Roe in his paper Willobie His Avisa and The Passionate Pilgrim: Precedence, Parody and development raised an interesting concept.

In his view Avisa was a figure who gave advice to H.W. that was a warning that any relationship with her was fraught with danger . This was in stark contrast to the poor advice that W.S. gave to H.W.

Roe then conjectured that the name Avisa was actually a pun on the word adviser.

I like this theory because it fully dovetails with my own reading of the book. I have no doubt that the REAL function of the book is to warn H.W. of the dangers and futility of trying to be in a relationship with Avisa.

16: Avisa = A warning.

We are told that H.W. has  a Spanish / Italian  (passionate ) style of loving.

It just so happens that the Spanish word for warning is Avisar and that the Italian word for warning is Avvisare  and that Avisa and Avvisa respectively  are third person singular present forms of these verbs.

It could well be that the translation of  Willobie his Avisa is actually Willobie His warning.

Avisa is constantly referred to as a bird and even undergoes physical metamorphosis  into a bird but this wasn't uncommon and Elizabethan  poets often referred to the object of their affections as a bird.

Further devices still exist in the libel Willobie His Avisa and we shall uncover them as we proceed but now we fully understand the mechanism of the main device employed and now we are in a commanding position to understand the full libel of Willobie His Avisa.

17:Avisa the working class hero ?.

Many scholars who have read the book have commented on the way that Avisa is depicted as a moralistic working class hero who puts the amoral upper class suitors in their place.

They seem to think that Avisa is some kind of working class hero.

But this is making the assumption that we should accept the narrative of the book at face value but I think  that this is something that we must not do.

 When we read the work carefully it becomes clear that Avisa is obviously an Aristocrat and has far too much power over her Aristocratic  suitors to be a real working class woman. The author tells us that Avisa is of noble birth but firmly places her in the working class.

This is the author's way of INSULTING Avisa , the author DOES NOT LIKE AVISA  and his praise of her is entirely ironic the message he is sending is that despite her aristocracy morally she belongs in the gutter.

When we read the book carefully we see that the author is actually very disdainful towards money and wealthy people , and seems to advocate a return to a life of Arcadian  contentment  this is an important topic that  we shall return to because the person  who I pick  as being the the real author of Willobie His Avisa was very disdainful towards wealth and the  emerging capitalistic society that Elizabethan England had become, and certainly was an advocate for a return to a life of Arcadian contentment. 

18: Avisa and her suitors.

Avisa is forwarded as a paragon of chastity who shines above the mythological and Biblical exempla of chaste women so she will be expected to be morally impeccable and on the surface this is what she appears to be.

However the more closely we read this libel the more we start to realize that she acts out of character with all of the suitors and I will point these times out. This acting out of character is not simply negligent writing by the author rather it is a consistent and calculated theme.

Avisa acts out of character to remind the reader that the book has been written in Ironia , every time that she acts out of character is a contextual clue that the device of Ironia has been switched on and is revealing to us who is being libeled and also who the suitors really are.

Picking the identities of the suitors is relatively straightforward because we already know a good deal but clearly not all of the events of Penelope Rich's life.

It is noted that the suitors appear to be a real multi-national group but I believe this to be a device of confusion. A chaste women who is being courted by a multinational group of suitors would immediately make the Elizabethan reader and also the contemporary reader think that Avisa represented Queen Elizabeth 1st but I

 am very certain that this is a deliberate ploy by the author and that Avisa is definitely not Queen Elizabeth.

In his essay on the interpretation of Willobie His Avisa Charles Hughes makes an important point.

He states that the suitors are all Englishmen and not really Italians, Frenchmen, Spaniards etc but are merely copying the traits of lovers from those countries.

The Epistle to the reader by Hadrian Dorell confirms this intention and Dorell bemoans the fact that many young Englishmen are now trying to emulate the traits of continental European lovers.

Descriptions of the different categories of European lovers and their traits according to the writings of Cornelius Agrippa then follow.

Another feature of Willobie His Avisa that adds to the confusion is that while the suitors are being introduced in numerical order i.e. as the first second third...temptation of Avisa it becomes apparent that these suitors are not strictly being presented in their correct chronological order.

Our hypothesis is that Avisa is Penelope Rich and thatWillobie his Avisa is a libel that has been written in the style of Ironia we shall now apply this hypothesis to the libel and see if it will indeed give us the solution.


We shall start with the description of Avisa herself . In Canto one Avisa is mythologically created by four the four goddesses Juno ,Venus, Athena and Diana.

Juno and Venus are shown to be immoral and they bestow negative characteristics onto Avisa. Athena and Diana are chaste and they bestow the gifts of chastity onto Avisa .This confirms the dual nature of Avisa.

Avisa is purported not to represent any real women the translation in ironia of this statement is that Penelope is a specific living woman. Of critical importance is the fact that we are told that Avisa is a feigned name the suitor D.H. is the only suitor who assigns a name other than Avisa to her and the name he gives her isPenelope.

The book is ostentatiously about chaste Avisa and her suitors but in Ironia the book is actually about Unchaste Penelope and her suitors.

The author forwards very little physical description about Avisa but this may be that in real life her appearance was so distinctive that if too much information was released the reader would immediately know who she was.

Penelope Rich had a unique appearance Golden blond hair with entirely black eyes ,dark eyebrows and a slightly tanned skin this appearance could fit with Shakespeare's description of the ?Dark Lady ? as being ?A woman colored ill?. No other woman in Elizabethan England had these features.

In Canto 1 the author gives a description of Avisa it is rather ambiguous and not typical for a truly chaste woman.

?A face and eye that shall intice

A smile that shall deceive the wise?. Canto 1 Lines 100-101 verse 16

It is most baffling why the author should chose to associate the concept of alluring beauty and deception with a woman who is supposed to be chaste. The author is also indicating that Avisa is a woman who is capable of deceiving educated people.

In the same Canto the author states that Avisa is a public figure who is approached by many suitors.

?And there she dwells in public eye

Shut up from none that list to see,

She answeres all that list to try,

Both high and low of each degree.? Canto 1 Lines 125-128 verse 21

Again the description of a woman who is willing to be approached by suitors from all walks of life simply doesn't fit the mould of a truly chaste woman.

We are told that Avisa's father was the mayor of the town that she lived in . Penelope Rich's father was the aristocrat Walter Devereux he was the first Earl of Essex. Essex was the county that Penelope ,after she was married would live in.

Avisa is an English woman who possessed exceptional beauty and is shown to be witty and intelligent these descriptions are fully in keeping with Penelope Rich who was considered to be the most beautiful woman in Elizabethan England. She was also renown for her wit and high intellect.

The author assures us that Avisa lived in the countryside but was in the public eye and was a famous and known on a national level . This immediately cuts the possibilities down because only a handful of Elizabethan women were nationally known .

Penelope Rich lived in rural Leez in Essex but she was also lived in London and was a leading figure in Elizabeth's court . She was widely known on a national level and was also internationally known .

Willobie His Avisa tells us that Avisa was twenty years old when she was married , this is very close to facts Penelope was between eighteen and nineteen years of age when she married. The poem tells us that she has been married for ten years this means her age is 30 this is very close to Penelope Rich who was between 29 and 30 in 1594 ( the date of the poems publication).

We are not told what Avisa's surname is but we are told that she was of a great name and that she was related to royalty . This was correct for Penelope Rich who came from the aristocratic Devereux family that was related to royalty.

Dorell gives a hint that Avisa's surname might begin with the letter D. This is given when he states that a woman like Avisa exists and gives her initials as A.D. ( Epistle to the reader line 116) we know Avisa is a feigned name but Dorrell may be insinuating that her last name is Devereux.

We are told that Avisa grew up in the country this was correct for Penelope Rich who was born and grew up in Chartley castle set in rural Staffordshire.

We are told that Avisa's marriage had been under trial for ten years again this is very close to events in the life of Penelope Rich. Penelope first met and had an affair with Charles Blount in the last quarter of 1583 Willobie His Avisa was published in the last quarter of 1594 .

In addition to all these similarities there is constant punning on the name Rich throughout the libel and it is often in a negative context. In the poem The Victory Of English Chastity a motto appears that states? True Chastity is oftener seen in the poorest than the Richest? (motto to verse 22).

Also ?Let wise Ulysses constant mate (Penelope) vaunt nobel birth her Richest boast?.Line 120 verse 20.

In these quotes we are seeing the name Rich being associated with unchaste behavior the second quote puts the name Penelope in close proximity to Rich.

It is also stating that Penelope had a title something we know Lady Penelope Rich did have.

We need to remember that Penelope Rich was the muse of poets and musicians and many poets of the time did write poems about Penelope Rich but they never named her directly rather they tended to call her a phoenix , due to her uniqueness or refer to her as a star after Sidney's Stella and Astrophil or pun on her surname of Rich and that is what is occurring here.

Avisa is called a Phoenix a number of times but the comparison always comes with a double entendre and she is called a ?mounting Phoenix?, we are reminded that a mount was Elizabethan slang for a prostitute. She is also called an Eagle who mounts above all others or an Eagle who mounts and flies at will.

In an allusion to the Penelope of legend Avisa is shown to own and use a spinning wheel.

In the Epistle to the reader Dorell makes an interesting statement about Avisa, ? If all women were indeede such as the woman figured under the name Avisa either is , or at least is supposed to bee , they would quickly regain their ancient credit?.(line 156)

In this ambiguous statement Dorrell seems to be introducing some doubt on Avisa and is raising the possibility that she is possibly not all that she appears to be.

Avisa is depicted as being poor Avisa tells the suitor D.B. that she is so poor that she begs from door to door. But this is difficult to believe first of all Avisa isn't homeless and when one of the suitors D.H. visits her house he finds her spinning with her maids and also wearing a lot of jewellery namely rings. This indicates that Avisa was not really a poor country maid but rather a wealthy woman who had her own servants. The fact that she wears many rings seems out of character , shouldn't she be wearing just one ring that of her husband?

The degree of Avisa's fame is also problematic in Elizabethan England it would not be possible for a woman to be wealthy and famous and not be an aristocrat.

In the resolution Avisa tells us that she is a simple country maid with ?A plain and simple mind?. but her speeches reveal an excellent knowledge of the Bible, as well as Greek and Roman mythology. She knows and can quote the Greek scholar Leonicus de Varia and is familiar with the works of Plato. She has knowledge of figures of Antiquity such as Helen of Troy, Queen Dido of Carthage as well as knowing about historical English women such as Shaws wife . Avisa is a witty and skilled debater who can get the better of suitors such as D.B. H.W. and D.H. all of whom have clearly been educated to university level.

At a time when most country maids were illiterate Avisa shows the ability to read, write her own letters and compose her own poetry. She even displays knowledge of warfare and an understanding of military tactics, she even has some medicinal knowledge.

There can be no doubt that Avisa has been classically educated to a very high level. Women did not attend university in the Elizabethan age and the only way a woman would have received this type of education would have been through private tuition . Such tuition would have only been available to an aristocratic woman.

In the H.W. dialog H.W. frequently inserts both Italian and Latin quotes into his letters to Avisa. Avisa gives no indication that she does not understand him , the insinuation here is that Avisa is multi lingual.

Penelope Rich was privately tutored to a very high level of education . She was schooled in the classics and was fluent in five languages. She was familiar with the military world because her brother Robert Devereux and her lover Charles Blount were the leading soldiers of the Elizabethan age.

No Elizabethan reader of Willobie His Avisa would have thought that Avisa was really a country maid.

Avisa is described as being an Innkeeper's wife but I believe this to be a derogatory term rather than an actual profession. A year prior to the publication of Willobie His Avisa Robert Cecil was libeled by the Jesuit leader in Exile Robert Persons in these well known libels Persons described Robert Cecil as being an Innkeeper's son for an aristocrat to be called the child of an Inn keeper was a significant insult because most Elizabethan Inns were dens of iniquity. Robert Cecil took huge offense at being called an Innkeepers son and released a family tree to disprove this allegation.

On the surface Avisa appears to be a highly religious woman but on close examination will make a religious quote then promptly do the opposite. The insinuation is that Avisa is not following the decree of her faith this is something we know Penelope Rich was guilty of doing.

20: In the service of the Queen ?

Pauline .K.Angel made the following observation about Avisa.

In a speech to the suitor D.H. Avisa reveals that she is a nymph of Dian's train.

Diana was one of the names given to Queen Elizabeth by the poets of the time and her maids of honor were referred to as nymphs in her train.This is a hint that Avisa was a woman in service of the Queen. This was correct for Penelope Rich who was a high ranking maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth since 1581..

21: Avisa's song

The climax of all of Avisa's replies to her suitors is right at the end where she bursts into song. That has been set to the tune of the ballad Fortune. The insinuation is that Avisa was musical again correct for Penelope Rich who had an outstanding singing voice.

Fortune was a ballad written for the lute and virginal the insinuation is that Avisa could play a musical instrument , Penelope Rich was known to play a number of instruments , The Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets is described as being musical and being able to play the Virginal.

The tune to the song she sings is very revealing the tune is called Fortune this was alternatively called Fortune my Foe it is a ballad composed by William Byrd . However the tune of Fortune has a definite and personal connection with Penelope Rich. On her father Walter Devereux's death in Ireland a ballad was composed for him this was called Essex's Last Goodnight this ballad was specifically set to the tune of Fortune. The author knows this tune will have a personal and emotional impact on Penelope Rich and this is why he is choosing it.

22: Avisa's gardens.

In Canto LXV111 the suitor H.W. comments on Avisa's splendid gardens ( The plural is noticed an indication that Avisa is a wealthy woman) H.W. has the following to say about Avisa's Gardens.

" I saw your gardens passing fyne

With pleasant flowers lately decked

With Couslops and with Elegentine,

When woeful woodbyne lies reject

Yet these in weeds and briars meet

Although they seem to smell so sweet.

The dainty daisy bravely springes

And cheefest honor seems to get

Yet let the Hysope have his place

That doth deserve a special grace.

This is an interesting passage what it is implying is that although on the surface Avisa's gardens appear to be splendid they are actually composed of weeds and briars. Woodbyne is traditionally a symbol of constancy in love yet it lies rejected in Avisa's garden. Elegentine due to its thorns  was a  symbol of  pleasure and pain.

This passage seems to have an uncanny resemblance to Shakespeare's  sonnet 94

which states

.The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself it only live and die,

But if that flower with base infection meet,

The basest weed outbraves his dignity:

   For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

   Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

 In the garden of Avisa the humble daisy   gets honor over the more beautiful flowers. This like Shakespeare's poem implies  that the most beautiful ( Avisa herself ) is corrupt and as such even the most common and  base weed outshines her.

Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

H.W.  suggests that Hyssop ( instead of the common daisy)  needs a central  place in Avisa's garden. Hyssop has a strong connection with adultery . In  psalm 51.17 King  David  after committing adultery with Bathsheba asks to be purged with Hyssop so that he will again be clean.  In the H.W dialogue a further mention of King David's affair with Bathsheba is mentioned  so we can be certain that  the author of Willobie His Avisa is using Hyssop to hint at adultry. It is clear that the author of Willobie His Avisa wants the young H.W. to purge himself of the unclean  adulteress  Avisa.

The afore mentioned descriptions are guarded but are all pointing strongly towards Penelope Rich when we consider these descriptions in combination with the descriptions of Avisa's suitors and observe Avisa's interactions with these suitors and also the description of Avisa's home and compare these to the known historical facts of Penelope Rich's life then we are left with no doubt whatsoever that the work is referring to Penelope Rich.

23: Avisa's husband.

Avisa's husband is the only unseen character in the book. We are told that he is an Innkeeper and that he is poor . If we consider that an Innkeeper is the ironic opposite of an aristocrat then the translation is that he is anAristocrat who is Rich. Very rich Robert Rich to be precise, Avisa constantly states her love and constancy towards her husband and her devout religious convictions but I believe that all of Avisa's speeches are written in Ironia so the implied translation is Penelope is a promiscuous wife who does not love her husband and has abandoned the decrees of her faith.

As if to underline this Avisa acts in a way that is not typical for a woman who is impeccably faithful to her husband. She is constantly entertaining her suitors pouring drinks for the immoral Caveliero , going on long walks with D.H. Writing poetry and letters to both D.B. and H.W. Both D.H. and H.W. personally visit her house. She gives advice to H.W . and studiously reads and replies to all of the suitors letters. If she was a truly chaste woman she would not be giving these suitors the time of day but Avisa appears to enjoy being surrounded by male suitors.

Avisa's husband must know that his wife is irresistible to men and appears entirely powerless to stop either the suitors or Avisa's interactions with them and the text tells us that Avisa has been in contact with some of these suitors for up to ten years.

Avisa's husband seems powerless to stop this shameful state of affairs , this indicates that Avisa's husband is either very weak willed or is a knowing cuckold.

The full scenario of Avisa being approached and entertaining many suitors is simply a cynical rewriting of The myth of Penelope and her suitors but this new version is set in England its main heroine is supposedly chaste Avisa ( who is really unchaste Penelope) and her Ulysses ( Avisa's husband ) does not return to fight and kill the suitors who have turned his home into a den of iniquity . Rather he is always at home and relegated to simply being a onlooker who is powerless to stop his wife (Penelope) from making a cuckold of him.

The libel Willobie His Avisa ostentatiously presents itself as being a tale of Chaste Avisa and her suitors but it is actually a libel that is describing Unchaste Penelope and her suitors.

Penelope Rich's husband was the 3rd Baron Robert Rich

 . He was a cuckold who was fully aware that Penelope was having an affair with Charles Blount.

One of the suitors derisively states that Avisa's husband could in no way satisfy her mind. This was true because Robert Rich had a significantly lower intellect than the extremely intelligent Penelope.

We also know that Penelope was indeed having a religious crisis and nearly converted to Catholicism in 1594 in 1594 Charles and Penelope's relationship was at crisis point and she had effectively had ended her relationship with Charles Blount at this juncture telling him that he shouldn't be seeing her because the relationship was preventing him from getting married. 1594 was the same year that Willobie His Avisa was first published.

We are continually told that we cannot compare Avisa to Penelope but Avisa her self compares her self to Penelope .

The appellation of Innkeeper to Avisa's husband may also be a snide insinuation that the Rich's house has become a notorious den of iniquity and that Avisa's husband is overseeing what is happening but is powerless to stop it.Or that Avisa herself is the Inn and that she is frequented by many immoral suitors.

The book pays a tongue in cheek homage to the tale of Penelope and her suitors but the difference is that in The Odyssey Ulysses is always an absent husband but when he returns he sees all the suitors who have been pestering Penelope and flies into a rage and kills them all.

In Willobie His Avisa  the husband is always present but appears to be entirely ineffective in discouraging Avisa's suitors , and it is Avisa and not her husband who threatens the suitors with violence and causes the death of a number of the suitors.

The fact that Avisa's husband makes no attempt to disperse the suitors  and doesn't seem to care about them suggests that he is simply doing his own thing  and letting Avisa live her own life.

This was completely correct for Penelope Rich and Robert Rich who were married but both were seeing other people and effectively living separate lives.  .

24: Avisa's house.

A passage is given that gives some detail about both Avisa's place of birth and the location of her house .

The passage is deliberately misleading and reads

?At wester side of Albion's ile

Where Austin pitched his monkly tent

The graces met with one consent

To frame each one in sundry part

Some cunning work to show their art.?

The next ten verses describe how the four goddesses formed Avisa The chaste goddesses Pallas and Diana gave her intelligence and chastity, the immoral goddess Venus gave her a ?luring eye?. On seeing the newly formed Avisa the immoral goddess Juno was jealous of her beauty and refused to give her the gift of wealth pointedly stating ? great riches sow the seeds of strife?. So instead she gave her the ?gift of poverty? and also the ?gift? of jealous envy.It is noted that the Devereux family motto was Virtue breeds Envy the motto at the footnote of Juno's dialog reads Jealousy Breedes Envy this looks a cynical rewriting of Penelope Rich/Devereux's family motto.

After these ten verses the poem abruptly starts to describe Avisa's house.

As I mentioned earlier this passage is misleading and is actually giving us two different and conflicting locations.

The first direction first it is giving us is the side of England where Avisa was born , the second direction is a landmark that is near to her house where she lived after her marriage.

The passage is stating that Avisa was born on the West side of England but that her house was near where St Augustine settled. Historians know that St Augustine entered England on the South East coast and settled on the near the border between Kent and Essex and not on the West coast of England.

This juxtaposition of conflicting directions is simply a ploy to confuse the reader but is also indicating that Avisa is a woman with ties to both West and East Anglia.

These directions are both correct for Penelope Rich. Penelope Rich was born on the West side of England in Chartley Castle Staffordshire. After she was married she lived in Leez Priory Essex which is in the South-East of England approximately twenty miles from St Augustine's first landing.

The book describes Avisa's house lying on a beautiful plain with a crystal well to its West and a Castle built by ancient shepherds to its East which has recently been bought and sold by brothers.

The poem states that the badge of England's saint hangs from Avisa's house.The poem also states a vale is nearby indicating that a river is nearby.

These details are all describing Leez Priory in Essex. Leez Priory is set on a plain and immediately to its West is a pond and to its East used to stand the large monastic remains of the ancient Augustine priory these resembled a castle. Leez priory looked radically different in 1594 than it does today and the ruins of this ancient castle to the East of Leez priory were removed in 1753. Leez priory is the site where after a long search Sir Ralph Gernons decided to establish an Augustine priory . The monks built their castle on this site , the term ancient shepherds refers to the monks who were known as the shepherds of souls. The poem tells us that a pleasant vale is nearby again this is correct for Leez Priory which is set on a dip in the River Ter. The poem gives the term ?crystal well? the term ?well? suggests an artificial water feature , Leez priory has a large pond that is adjacent to its Westerly aspect. The ponds in Leez Priory were artificial and were created by the monks who diverted water from the River Ter to nearby Leez Priory

The poems states that shepherds tend their flocks on a down that is close to Avisa's house again this is correct for Leez Priory which has its own farm and originally had over 200 acres of farmland associated with it. Avisa reveals to D.B. that her house is not in London , in the H.W. / W.S. dialog H.W. points out Avisa's house that is clearly visible in the distance . These details are indicating that Avisa's house is a sizable dwelling set in the countryside. This is correct Leez Priory is a large 14 bedroom Tudor mansion.

The Rich family coat of arms includes three St George crosses in triangular formation. Other Rich family insignia includes a depiction of a Knight and a Dragon . These are all clear allusions to St George ( The patron saint of England).

To the East of Leez priory remains the ruins of the old Augustine Priory following the Abolition of the monasteries this was bought by Robert Rich's father who was also called Robert Rich he sacked the priory and sold its relics and also nearby Hadleigh Castle which he partially demolished and also sold the stone.

Rich built Leez Priory very close to the ruins of the priory and partially incorporated these ruins into his new mansion. Robert Rich continued his fathers work when he inherited the mansion. I believe that the author is calling the two Roberts ?brothers? not because they were father and son but because they were namesakes.

The fact that Avisa was born on the West side of England immediately precludes Queen Elizabeth from being Avisa. Elizabeth was born in London.

The poem states that Avisa's house lies on a perfect plain where Nymphs and Satyrs play ..

This line may not be as innocent as it sounds Nymphs were often portrayed as being promiscuous and a Satyr was a figure from Greek mythology but was also Elizabethan slang for a lecherous man .

This line may in fact be indicating that Avisa's house is a notorious den of iniquity.

The formal identification of Penelope Rich as being Avisa has very significant ramifications for Shakespearian studies and a major cascade of insights can be triggered from this one realization alone .

Penelope Rich was the leading lady of The Essex Circle and her closest friends were all from the Essex circle.

If Avisa is identified as being Penelope Rich then the spotlight falls squarely on H.W. and W.S. A young Aristocrat who has an older friend who is clearly an actor have to be exactly who we think they are namelyHenry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare.

We can from this point solve the riddle of the sonnets . It becomes clear that Shakespeare was writing about his interactions with members of the Essex circle.

The fair Youth must be Henry Wriothesley . The Dark Lady is Lady Penelope Rich.

25 :The problem with Avisa.

If we attempt to read the book in a literal sense and accept it at face value i.e. that the book is celebrating a  common woman who is empowered by her chastity .

then major problems start to surface almost immediately.

There is a major disconnect between what we are told about Avisa and what she actually is all of the suitors recognise this and ,the suitor D.B. specifically states this in CantoXXV1

Into my heart it cannot sink

That you do speak as you do think

Your smiling face and glancing eye

With these your words do not agree


Your words do wander from your will.

the other significant problem with Avisa appears when we start to view her in a historical context because  she simply doesn't fit into  the mould of what Elizabethan women were historically expected to be.

We are told that she is a simple country maid with a simple mind but in her dialog with the Nobleman she demonstrates that she is fully literate and familiar even at a young age with scholarly books, with the suitor H.W. Avisa uses the French word sans (without) this certainly wasn't the usual vocabulary of a country maid and is a clue that Avisa might be multilingual.

In Elizabethan times women were not allowed to attend university only upperclass women could expect the extensive education that Avisa clearly has.

We also note that Avisa is constantly preaching from the Bible , a number of her suitors are surprised by this , in Elizabethan times a woman was not allowed to preach and working class women were not even permitted  to openly quote from the Bible.

Avisa tells a suitor to return to Coleman Hedge this was a locale in London (now known as Soho) notorious for prostitution . How can Avisa who supposedly lives in the West of England know specific London locations ? we need to remember  that common people  in Elizabethan England were not allowed to travel.

Avisa is particularly hateful towards other woman who she considers to be unchaste and her speeches seem to mirror the speeches given by Hadrian Dorrell in the introduction this makes me very suspicious that Hadrian Dorrell was more than simply the editor of this libel. 

Avisa's behaviour is atypical for an Elizabethan woman , Elizabethan women were considered to be the property of their husband, they were not considered to be the equal of men and were expected to be subservient and have large families .

However Avisa  is not just the equal of her suitors she gets the better of them , she is very imperious and uses the Queen's own motto.

She is as comfortable dealing with highly intellectual suitors as she is dealing with suitors who have gutter  level morals.

Avisa is no innocent country maid  she understands all of the suitor's smutty innuendoes and often answers back in kind .

Avisa isn't afraid of wealthy suitors who are clearly courtiers and she threatens the Nobleman with a deadly weapon.

Avisa constantly praises her husband but doesn't appear to spend any time with him ,

Avisa is supposed to be a chaste woman however her physical description doesn't fit with the Petrarchan ideal of a chaste woman who is beautiful and unattainable and often not approachable.

Avisa is a beautiful woman but she is a woman who projects inchastity and  all of the suitors comment on this .

On a number of occasions  Avisa herself bemoans the fact that her appearance is that of an unchaste woman.

Canto XV

Avisa to the Cavaliero.

" O wretched soule what face have I

That cannot look but some misdeame,

What sprite doth lurk within mine eye

That so  kindles thoughts

much unclean ?

Nature gave me such a face

Which seems at first unchaste or ill."

With this passage we are again seeing a disconnect between what Avisa is supposed to be  and what she actually is.

If Avisa is really  such a paragon of  virtue and chastity why does she not project this in person ?

The Cavaliero likens Avisa to a fortress this was a device that Sidney used when describing Stella but the difference is that in Sidney's  description the fortress was occupied by chaste and virtuous Stella (Penelope Rich) but in the Cavaleiro's version the fortress is occupied by an unchaste and hypocritical woman Avisa.

Avisa is thirty, by this age most married Elizabethan women would have had a large family , if Avisa is a mother then her children cannot be very high on her list of priorities because she makes no mention of them. However in the H.W. dialogue Avisa confesses that her mind has been " surprised " by household cares , but Elizabethan women were expected to be fully involved with household cares but Avisa seems to have ample time to be entertaining a plethora of suitors an activity that she appears to derive some enjoyment from , the fact that she says that she is surprised by household cares is revealing.

Is this a rare admission by Avisa  that she is less than perfect and  has been negligent towards the needs of  her own family ?

There could be more than a grain of salt in this accusation we know that Penelope Rich was an extremely forceful and independent woman , she refused to play the role of the country wife and mother and chose to be part of Elizabeth's court instead.

26: Free consent.

Avisa continually states that given free consent to marry her husband  but this historically was very rare, Elizabethan women were considered to be second class citizens  most women had little or no choice in who they married  and most marriages were arranged between families so that the union would benefit both families rather than the individuals concerned.

In the proposed union with the nobleman Avisa's " chiefest friends" ? her family have given consent for  the relationship to procede but Avisa countermands their wishes - again historically this would have been most unusual even aristocratic women including Penelope Rich could not go against what their families or their minders had decided for them.

Avisa is shown to be a highly desirable woman, in the Elizabethan age the more desirable a woman was the greater the likelihood that their marriage would be an arranged one  .

Avisa keeps stating that she is poor and has to beg but only a wealthy upper class woman would be able to afford the education that she has.

We are told that Avisa can only speak the truth but she certainly isn't telling the truth about her education, nor is she telling the truth about her financial and social status.

If Avisa is not telling the truth about the basic facts of her background then what else is she lying about ? The most obvious feature about Avisa is her incessant moralizing and boasting  about her own chastity.

The realization that Avisa is an aristocrat makes it far more likely that her suitors are also aristocrats and the libel acknowledges that some of her suitors are aristocratic.

If Avisa's basic dialogue cannot be trusted then who in the book can be trusted ? the suitors have not all been portrayed in a particularly endearing manner however if the book really is a deeply misogynistic work that is attacking its central character then it is actually the narrative of these suitors and what they have to say about Avisa that  the author considers to be "the truth".

Avisa is convinced that she is a saint but all of the suitors think that she is a hypocritical sinner. 

In the Epistle to the reader Hadrian Dorrell makes an interesting comment concerning Avisa , he claims that the name AVISA is a feigned name and that the author has chosen it to fit the nature of Avisa. He also conjectures that the author has been desirous to imitate Plato's commonwealth and Thomas More's Utopia . These are most interesting choices both are quite pro feminist books  that present utopias that place women on an even footing with men.

However " country Maid " Avisa  " just happens " to be  familiar with Plato's Commonwealth and is most dismissive of it.

Claiming that it is a book that promoted anti Biblical inchastity I quote,

Canto XXXV11 Avisa to D.H.

Your words command the lawless rite,

Of Platoes lawes that freedom give

That men and women for delight

Might both in common freely love.

Yet God doth threaten cruel death

To them that break their wedlocke faith".

The marginal note that goes with this quotation also mentions Plato's Commonwealth

In Plato His Commonwealth all women were common contrary to the commandment of God.

It is also most interesting that Thomas More's controversial work written by an openly  Catholic author  which was its self a work of satire should be forwarded as being the template that the author of Willobie His Avisa has used.

Again we are seeing a significant disconnect between what is being said about Avisa and what she herself says.

Avisa for an Elizabethan woman  is remarkably independent and dominant, she requires no help at all from her husband to deal with her suitors and has a most boastful  confident and proud demeanor which many of the suitors complain about.

None of these attributes were commonly found in a common Elizabethan woman.

The fact that  Avisa's behavior  is so far from the way that  Elizabethan women behaved   suggests that she can really only be one of two things , she must either be a wealthy virtous queen like figure ( if not the queen herself) or a hypocritical confident and agressive adultress .

I am ENTIRELY certain  it is the latter that is being implied in the libel Willobie His Avisa.

In reading the libel Willobie His Avisa I do not believe ANY of Avisa's speeches and think that the OPPOSITE of literally everything she says is being implied

The ultimate realisation that we need to make is that  the reason why the libel Willobie His Avisa has been written in an ironic fashion is because the leading female character - Avisa is actually a well known public figure who is generally thought of as being a virtuous and desirable woman but the author thinks otherwise and is looking to reveal the truth about her  through  the medium of irony.

Penelope Rich was the woman who was idealised and  worshiped by Philip Sidney ,the leading writer of the Elizabethan age.

However her real life was bedevilled by serious scandals - she perfectly fits the target of this libel , Avisa - a woman  pubicly venerated  but whom in real life is entangled in a serious adultery  scandal, The timeframe  in which Willobie His Avisa was published is exactly correct to be describing Penelope Rich's adultery scandal.

27:One is NOT amused.

 The single person that Avisa is clearly emulating is The Queen herself. Avisa like Queen Elizabeth turns down a host of multinational suitors , Avisa like Elizabeth is highly patriotic and basks in her image of spotless chastity  and omnipotence , Avisa even uses the Queen's personal motto "Always the same "  .

 Sempre Eadem Latin for Always the same was  Queen Elizabeth the first's personal motto but Avisa fearlessly uses it on four occasions this would have got Elizabeth's attention and raised her ire.

Elizabeth was always highly sensitive to being libelled and this book would certainly have got her attention.

It is clear that the author is writing a farcical and ironic  libel about a woman  called Avisa "who can't possibly be compared to Penelope ". In fearlessly adopting the Queen's personal motto Avisa demonstrates herself to be a woman who was disrespectful to the Queen.

We know that this was true of Penelope Rich who was certainly not a royalist and was a leading figure of the Essex rebellion which attempted to overthrow Elizabeth.

And that this character Avisa ( who can in no way be compared to or called Penelope nudge- nudge wink- wink ) is clearly unchaste and seems to think she is entitled to behave like the Queen herself.

The author is obviously trying to get Avisa  ( who can in no way be called Penelope) offside with the Queen and the author is wanting the Queen to start investigating the chastity of a woman who is" not" called Penelope .

Elizabeth took a very dim view of adultery and was notorious for throwing adulterers into the tower of London.

It is certain that this was the outcome that the author was angling for. One of the suitors (D.B) even suggests that Avisa may become a prisoner in the future..

We also notice the sinister promise that Hadrian Dorrell makes at the the end of the libel where he states that much more can be revealed about Penelope and that this will be revealed in the future.

The author of Willobie His Avisa wants Penelope Rich entirely out of the picture.

In adopting the mantle of "The most chaste woman in England"  and also being quite a militant woman Avisa is not merely using The Queen's own motto but is also usurping the public image that Queen Elizabeth had personally cultivated for herself.

Elizabeth hated competition of any kind and could be dangerous to cross . She would have would have been annoyed by the Avisa character  who had been portrayed as a commonor who was attempting to supplant the Queen's regal image . Elizabeth would have been annoyed and would have used her own spy network to investigate who precisely Avisa  was intended to be.

This was exactly what the author of Willobie His Avisa was wanting.

In linking the Avisa character to Queen Elizabeth the author of Willobie His Avisa seems to be making an ironic allusion to the character of Britomart from Edmund Spencer's Fairey Queene.

Britomart was a militant female knight who represented chastity Spencer himself admitted that Britomart was intended to be Queen Elizabet.

The similarities of these two characters would not have been lost on either the Queen or the general reading public but neither would the observation that Britomart was unwaveringly virtuous but Avisa is far more ambiguous   .

We now appreciate the depth of hatred that the author of Willobie His Avisa has for Penelope Rich, particularly  when we observe that he seems to think that his subject matter is of such huge importance that the Queen Of England needs to become personally involved.

28 : Avisa an Innkeeper's wife ?

Historically Avisa has been thought of as being a barmaid living in the west of England  and the description of the flag of St George hanging from her house has spurred hordes of researchers into trying to find a St Georges Tavern in the West of England that had a barmaid named Avis or Avisa.

 all such efforts are doomed to failure.

First of all the author states that Avisa is not the woman's real name.

We must also  realize that Willobie his Avisa is a book of irony that is insinuating the very opposite to what it is stating, I do not think Avisa's house is in the West of England I think it is on the Eastern side.

We are told Avisa's house lies on the Western side of Albion's ile near where St Augustine pitched his monkly tent.

This is nonsensical, St Augustines mission at the time of his death scarcely extended beyond Kent South East of England he made no significant mission in Western England.

On the other hand Penelope Rich's home in Essex was indeed not that far from St Augustine's first landing.

I also do not remotely believe that Avisa was really a barmaid or that her husband was an Inn Keeper .

Rather the impression is that both Avisa and her husband were  wealthy aristocrats.

We should also be aware that nowhere in the full libel does it state that either  Avisa or her husband are linked to an Inn it is only indirectly inferred  when the Cavalerio tells Avisa to pour him a cup of wine.

In the counter libel Penelope's complaint Avisa IS described as being the wife of an Inn Keeper and the child of the same.

We need to be aware that it was a grave insult for an Aristocrat to be called an Inn Keeper particularly when we consider that many of the Elizabethan Inns were dens of iniquity .

The jesuit leader in exile Robert Persons with his 1592 libel  An advertisment to a secretarie of my lord treasurer of Ingland. targeted both Robert Cecil and William Cecil with a string of famous libels in one of these libels he stated that William Cecil was  not an aristocrat and was actually the son of an Inn Keeper.

Cecil was gravely offended and published his own family tree to discredit this rumour.

 the linking of Avisa to an Inn was cynical and  figurative and not literal .

Another point we need to consider is that we can certainly link Penelope Rich to an Inn.

Penelope Rich  and Philip Sidney are  both  characters in Philip Sidney's The countess of Pembroke's Arcadia her pastoral disguise is as the shepherdess Cleophila. Sidney's pastoral guise was Pyroclese.

In Arcadia Pyroclese watches Cleophila bathing and writes the song What tounge can her perfections tell  this is a  long blazon celebrating her beauty.

At the end of this blazon he states that all of her body" is but a fair inn of fairer guest that dwells within."

In linking Avisa to an Inn Dorrell may be cynically rewriting this passage ,and intimating that Avisa herself  is the Inn but the Inn is not a fair Inn rather  is a den of iniquity frequented by immoral suitors.

Her husband "The Inn Keeper" is  the owner of not a fair Inn like Cleophila but rather an den of iniquity like Avisa.

( I thank the Shakesperian scholar Rainbow Saari for alerting me to this possibility).

By a twist of fate Penelope Rich's house Leez Priory is linked to an Inn , St Annes castle ( This is England's oldest Inn and used to be part of Leez Priory) but I do not think that Hadrian Dorrell is reffering to this particular Inn.

The fact that St Georges flag hangs from Avisa's house may well be significant and I later demonstrate that St George has a definite connection with the Rich family coat of arms however again we should probably consider this to be a cynical line.

We are told that Avisa is the only chaste woman in England therefore it would be only fitting that such a woman would be flying the flag of St George who was the upholder of faith and champion of chastity and that her house should be near the place where the founder of the English Church St Augustine made his landing in England.

By linking Avisa to such religiously important figures - (both were  saints) the author is cynically implying that Avisa herself should be considered a saint.

A concept that the suitor W.S. openly disagrees with - " She is no saint - she is no nun".

 29: Avisa the distorting mirror of Lucrece.

 Willobie his Avisa is a work that is clearly an ironic  version of Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece and Homer's Penelope and her suitors,

In this ironic version the lead female who is supposed to be the very personification of chastity is described as an Eagle - the natural enemy of the Turtle Dove the standard emblem for constancy in love.



The author of Willobie His Avisa is very familiar with Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece we are certain of this because he specifically mentions it and takes a number of quotes from Shakespeare's work.

However the author of Willobie his Avisa seems to be presenting  a very distorted reflection of the legend of Lucrece.

In Shakespeare's poem Lucrece is an innocent who is not used to deceitful people however Avisa has had far more experience with men and  is fully aware of all of the tricks that the suitors  try to use.

 Lucrece never strays from her virtous demeanour but Avisa can be just as bawdy as some of her suitors.

Avisa is unconquered but Lucrece is raped ,Avisa boasts that she is an impregnable fortress and that none shall scale her walls .

Compare this to Tarquin who boasts to Lucrece " I am to scale thy never conquer'd fort".

The most surprising aspect of any comparison between Rape of Lucrece and Willobie His Avisa is that Avisa seems to have more in common with the arch villan Tarquin than she does with Lucrece.

Unchaste Tarquin is described as a predatory Falcon  and his prey the harmless Dove / Mouse/ Deer Lucrece.

We notice that Avisa is personified as a heartless Eagle and the suitors all describe them selves  as her prey. The suitor D.B. is described as a hurtless dove,

 The suitor H.W. as a hunted deer , a mouse and a hunted fish.

When Tarquin has quenched his carnal lust with Lucrece he is described as " a full-fed hound " and a " Gorged Hawk " that has fed like a glutton and has now lost interest in his prey.

In rebuffing the suitor D.B. Avisa tells D.B. that he is wasting his time and personifies her self as being a gorged predator,

 "The labour's lost that you indure To gorged hawk you cast the lure".

There is another very clear reference to predatory birds and sexual desire and it is seen in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis In this poem Venus is depicted as a figure representing female desire and when she aggressively 

 kisses the effeminate Adonis she is described as a ravenous  Eagle.

Even as an empty Eagle sharp by fast

Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh and bone

Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste

Till either  gorge or be stuffed or prey be gone

Even so she kissed his brow , his cheek his chin

And where she ends she doth anew begin

 This is a clear reworking of the Ganymede myth the difference here is that Shakespeare's innocent Adonis is being ravished by the she Eagle of in-chastity we are again seeing the image of an Eagle gorging itself to fulfil its sexual appetite .

The Author of Willobie His Avisa quotes from Shakespeare and

  is fully familiar with Shakespeare's work and the sexual  connotations of the term  "gorged Hawk/ Eagle" that appears in both Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece  and we are reminded that Avisa calls herself a "gorged hawk".

In Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece , Lucrece like Avisa ungoes a poetic metamorphosis . Avisa becomes an Eagle that symbolizes chastity but the shamed Lucrece after her rape becomes associated with a nightingale that sings mournfully in the darkness.

What is important with this is the concept , Lucrece wants to be like the Nightingale a bird that sings at night and is not seen. That sings mournfully because of its shame.

If we recall  the name Avisa is described by Hadrian Dorell as meaning  a bird not seen  Shakespeare has already told us that a bird not seen is a bird that is linked to inchastity.

Ovid also used this device in his tale of Nyctimene the daughter of Epopeus the King of Lesbos.She was raped by her father and in shame dissapeared into the woods where Minerva transformed her into an owl.

Ovid harshly writes of her

She was made a bird

And shuns the daylight for her foul sin

Guilt cursed her sin shut in the dark unseen

An utter outcast from the sky's bright sheen.

Again we appreciate the connection with the term The bird not seen and shameful sexual conduct.

The author of Willobie his Avisa is familiar with Shakespeare's Lucrece and also specifically  states that he is familiar with Ovid's work the connotations of the term " a bird not seen" would certainly be understood by him.

Dorrell tells us that The name Avisa has been chosen for Avisa

because the name reflects her nature .

If Avisa is a bird not seen then Avisa is a woman secretly  involved involved in shameful inchastity.

It is also noted that a number of the suitors call Avisa a haggard hawk this is a double entendre  haggard can mean a woman resistant to wooing but in Elizabethan times the term Haggard Hawk   also meant an unchaste woman and Shakespeare himself used this term , in Othello  shakespeare has Othello cursing Desdemona as being an unchaste haggard hawk who is tethered to his heart.

In Willobie His Avisa the suitors are calling Avisa a haggard hawk in the same dialogues in which  they are complaining that  she is a hypocrite and an  unchaste woman , this makes it certain that everytime a suitor calls Avisa a haggard hawk  the suitor is really implying that she is an unchaste woman.

It is most revealing that on a number of occasions Avisa refers to herself as being a hawk or a kite.

We need to remember that Kite was a term that in Elizabethan times meant a loose woman. A common saying was a Kite like Cressida (Cressida was an unchaste woman)..

Returning to our comparison of Lucrece and Willobie His Avisa we notice thatTarquin like Avisa is omnipotent and  always gets exactly what he wants as does Avisa.

 The closest we see to a rape scene in Willobie His Avisa occurs during the dialog with the Nobleman  but agin this is a parodic inversion Avisa produces a dagger  but instead of plunging the  dagger into her heart as did Lucrece  Avisa threatens to plunge the dagger into the Nobleman's heart this is an echo of Tarquin threatening Lucrece with his blade.

Despite The Rape of Lucrece and Willobie His Avisa both purporting to be forwarding a central female character who is chaste a fundimental difference exists .

Everyone - including Tarquin thinks that Lucrece is a chaste woman. The Only person who does not think Lucrece is a chaste Woman is Lucrece herself -after her own rape.

But with Willobie His Avisa   an inversion is again presented,  The Only people who think that Avisa is chaste is Avisa herself and the narrator.

Shakespeare offers Lucrece praise for being a woman famed for her virtue and chastity Avisa receives praise also but the praise that the author offers Avisa is so hyperbolic that it becomes obvious that he is using sarcastic irony.

Avisa is forwarded as the ideal women to which all young English women should strive to emulate but the praise goes further the author states that all European women should try to be like her and in the poem The Victory of English Chastity it is revealed that Avisa turns down thousands of suitors everyday and therefore she wins the garland for being the most chaste woman.

One of the most important comparisons between Willobie His Avisa and The Rape of Lucrece is that The Rape Of Lucrece was dedicated to Henry Wriothesley , Willobie His Avisa is a book that looks to be dedicated to or intended for H.W..

The strong and ironic comparisons between Shakespeare's Lucrece and Willobie's Avisa do not end here and we shall return to this important topic.

Avisa  the Naiad Nymph  ?

On a number of occasions in the poem  Avisa is described as being a Nymph and she is a Nymph who haunts a crystal well that is near her house. This description may actually be a hint as to  what Avisa's real name was ...

Classically Naiad Nymphs were the Nymphs who presided over Brooks Wells and freshwater ponds. The Naiads were often temptresses who were always linked to a very specific location.  It is most significant to note that the Penelope of Homeric legend had a mother who was a Naiad Nymph .

This meant that Penelope herself was half Naiad  . This is most significant because  of the other women that Avisa is compared to  namely Susana , Lucrece  and Penelope  only Penelope was also a water Nymph.

In the poem Avisa is depicted as being both a water Nymph and an avenging  Eagle who destroys her suitors. . In Homers tale Penelope is linked to a Naiad Nymph and also she has a dream of an avenging Eagle that slaughters her suitors..

In depicting Avisa as both an Eagle and a Nymph is the author subtly and poetically suggesting that Avisa's real name is Penelope ? 

In sonnet 37 of  Astrophel and Stella Sidney depicted Stella as the Rich Nymph of the East. This was a very significant sonnet because this was a naming sonnet and  Sidney was identifying Stella as being Penelope Rich.  In Willobie His Avisa Avisa is reciprocally and ironically   depicted as being  The Poor Nymph of the West.

30: Footnotes and marginalia.

Many Elizabethan texts had footnotes and notes within the margins (marginalia).

These notes served to shed further light on the meaning of the text and often the author placed his real meaning within these notes and such notes often contained the key that could unlock the full text.

Willobie his Avisa comes complete with both footnotes and marginalia many of which come from the Bible and from  classical sources of antiquity . What is interesting about these notes is that in many instances they are stating the exact opposite of what the text is stating.

This particular mechanism is highly evident in the final H.W. dialogue.

The fact that conflicting marginalia and footnotes are juxtaposed with the body of the text  is convincing evidence that the full text is an exercise in sarcastic irony.

Many of the footnotes are invectives condemning female adulteresses and in-chastity this is curious considering that the work is purported to be a celebration of female chastity.

The footnotes and marginalia are present to remind us that a hidden narrative is being presented in my explanation of the suitors I quote from a number of these important footnotes, As we shall see some very explosive insinuations are made in the foot notes.

31: The Suitors.

Willobie His Avisa seems to have three levels of poetic shadowing that it affords to the suitors. The first two suitors are simply given names that represent their station for example The Nobleman and The Caveleiro. The next two suitors are given Latinate names and initials that stand for those names for example Dudum Beatis D.B. and Dydimus Harco D.H.

As the libel progresses the degree of poetic shadowing becomes increasingly thin to the point where solely initials are offered that appear to be the correct initials for the individual concerned. For Example H.W. for Henry Wriothesley and W.S. for William Shakespeare. I believe the reason that the level of poetic shadowing becomes increasingly transparent as the libel reaches its climax is due to the fact that the author wants to make it entirely clear to the reader who he is libeling.

The suitors all know Avisa and her husband and appear to have known them for a long time. This is an indication that they are moving in the same circle and this circle is identified as being the Essex circle.

32 :The first suitor.

The first suitor is an English Nobleman he is obnoxious and the wealthiest of any of the suitors . Older than Avisa he approaches her when she is young and unmarried the dialog initially seems to be implying that he is trying to have an affair with her but he tells her that she is the first woman that he has ever courted and as the dialog progresses it becomes clear that he is formally courting her for marriage. He offers her his heart, his entire estate ( which consists of a mansion and lands) much jewelery and silk gowns. He offers her a personal spending allowance of 200 pounds a year that he bumps up to 1000 pounds . He also offers her two male servants and two maids in waiting and her own four horse carriage.

But Avisa spectacularly cuts him down to size and rejects his offer. We expect this from Avisa just as in Ironia we expect the very opposite from Penelope. Who will marry a man she does not love for his money and accept all his gifts.

This suitor is of course 3rd Baron Robert Rich . The

 Barons counted as nobility in the Elizabethan class system. Robert Rich was aptly named for even in comparison to other members of the nobility he was exceptionally wealthy. The gifts that he offered Avisa although very impressive by Elizabethan standards would still be considered meager for a dowry had Avisa been a real queen.


The gifts seem more commensurate with a wealthy aristocrat's gifts to his wife.

The insinuation that Penelope married solely for money is unfair , her marriage to Baron Rich was not her choice rather it was engineered by her minders Lord Huntingdon and William Cecil who were personal friends of Robert Rich.

It was a union that Penelope was strenuously against from the start.

Throughout the dialog Avisa and the Nobleman are at each others throats and the full dialog is very reminiscent of a bitter domestic quarrel between an ill matched couple.

Avisa seems to be very familiar with this suitor but she is on poorer terms with this suitor than any other she hates him and she appears to enjoy upsetting him.

On parting the nobleman tells her ? Thou hadst my heart but now my hate.? Canto X11 line 32. Avisa also indicates that some level of affection had at one time existed between the two but no longer does and states ?You were my friend you were but dust?Canto X11 line 44- This is  a most interesting thing for Avisa to say because  Avisa and the Nobleman never appeared to be friends - there is an implication here that Avisa's relationship with this suitor is more complex than is being described .

This could be an allusion to the Rich's fractured relationship. By 1593 Penelope and Robert were living in the same house and did have children together but were effectively living separate lives.

The Nobleman makes some revealing comments about Avisa's family stating that her family was of a great name and were related to royalty but were now poor. This was correct the aristocratic Devereux family had fallen into a poor financial position due to the fact that Queen Elizabeth had insisted that the Devereux family help privately fund her costly campaign in Ireland this effectively bankrupted the Devereux family.

The Nobleman is more aggressive and has the worst temper of any of the suitors and is the only suitor who physically manhandles Avisa.

These traits fit with the personality traits that have been historically recorded for Robert Rich , during their divorce proceedings Robert Rich was criticized for his ?hard usage? of Penelope. This sounds like a euphemism for domestic violence.

In dealing with this suitor Avisa adopts an extremely religious line of argument and physically preaches to him this could be a cynical allusion to Rich's known staunch puritanical beliefs.

The Nobleman tells Avisa on a number of occasions that she is not really a chaste woman and is simply pretending to be so and in Canto X11 this is specifically confirmed.

The author tells us that Avisa has met the Nobleman when she was still unmarried but she acts out of character and lets it slip that she is a poor man's wife.This is a staggering confession for ?chaste Avisa? to make.

But we know that every time Avisa acts out of character it is an indication that the device of Ironia has been ?switched on?.

What this passage is really implying is that prior to her marriage Penelope was in a serious relationship with a man of lower socio economic status than Baron Rich and therefore was not a virgin when she was married.

These facts are absolutely correct for Penelope Rich , prior to her marriage she was engaged for four years to Philip Sidney who was a commoner .Sidney and Penelope were lovers during this time and Sidney was rejected by Penelope's minders because he was deemed to be too poor .

In Canto X the Nobleman reveals that Avisa's chiefest friends had given consent to his suit but Avisa herself still rejects him.

This is exactly what happened Penelope's minders gave consent for her marriage to Baron Rich but Penelope was against the idea and had to be physically dragged to the altar.

In canto X The nobleman laments his love of Avisa and states

My hapless hap fell much awry

To fix my fancies prime delight

In haggard hawke that mounts so high.

With this invective The Nobleman is calling Avisa a haggard Hawk this is an elizabethan term for an inconstant woman.

Robert Rich was an unpopular person and Penelope's father Walter Devereux described him in the following manner ?Rough and uncourtly in manners and conversation, dull and uneducated , proper in nothing but his wealth?. This sounds like the Nobleman to me. Penelope's father Walter Devereux did not want Penelope to marry Rich he wanted Penelope to marry Philip Sidney and tried on his deathbed to arrange this match but Lord Huntingdon did not agree and unilaterally called off Penelope's engagement with Sidney.

Avisa continually acts out of character with the Nobleman and in Canto 111 line 19 she states that she is too base to be his wife. Why would Avisa say this / The Nobleman has been depicted as being morally bankrupt why would Avisa now say that she is not worthy of him?

The statement is Ironia and is really implying thatPenelope is too immoral to be his wife.

The nobleman insults Avisa calling her ? a Dunghill mate? as we recall this is a direct allusion back to the Biblical proverb that appears on the title page of the book which states ?He that is plagued with a bad wife is as miserable as if he were on a dunghill.?

As Avisa leaves the Nobleman we see an ironic revision of Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece. Instead of Lucrece plunging a dagger into her own heart rather than be unchaste ,Avisa threatens to plunge the dagger into the heart of the Nobleman.

This is indicating that Willobie His Avisa is an ironic parody of The Rape of Lucrece and that it is Penelope who is bringing death and dishonor to her suitors .

In Canto 1111 The Nobleman drops a real hint that Avisa's real name is Penelope he states

"You will be chaste Diana's mate

Till time hath wove the web of woe".

This is a clear allusion to Penelope , Penelope like Diana was famous for her chastity she also wove a web ( a shroud ) for Laertes which she  unravelled each night so that the task was never completed  Penelope's web - web of woe is a metaphor for an unending or hopeless task.

Why is the nobleman not outright naming her as Penelope ?  the author is backing away from doing this but as we shall see other suitors will call Avisa Penelope.

Despite the fact that the Nobleman (Robert Rich) is the cuckold he is not presented in a sympathetic light , this does not surprise me because the author of Willobie His Avisa states in the introduction that he greatly admires the works of Sir Philip Sidney.

Sidney hated Robert Rich so it is not surprising that the author of Willobie His Avisa would not particularly like him either but what is abundantly clear is that the author of Willobie His Avisa cannot stand Penelope Rich.

The suitor known as the Nobleman wears two hats in this libel he is first introduced as the obnoxious Nobleman (Lord Rich ) then he is cast as the unseen and submissive husband of Avisa who is powerless to stop Avisa/ Penelope's immoral behavior. Once again art is imitating real life events In real life Robert Rich was an unpopular and arrogant rich man but he was equally a man who knew full well that his wife was seeing other suitors but despite his money and power he was unable to do anything about it.

Avisa's dislike and rejection of the wealthy nobleman mirrors Penelope's real life dislike and rejection of her very wealthy nobleman husband.

Towards the end of the dialogue the Nobleman rails at Avisa for refusing wealth (Riches) and promises her that he will publicaly shame her and revenge her actions if he can.

The last statement is interesting The Nobleman has earlier boasted that he can do anything he wants and have anyone he pleases and that no one would dare to stand up to him , if this was the case then  why does he infer some doubt that he will be able to wreak vengeance on Avisa ?

Is it that Avisa had powerful people protecting her ?

Penelope was able to  behave in any way she chose with complete impunity  in her marriage with Robert Rich, but this was only because Lord  Rich was afraid of Penelope's powerful brother Robert Devereux. As soon as Robert Devereux was executed Robert Rich divorced Penelope.


 33: The Second suitor.

Is called a Caveleiro and is described as being a ruffian by nature and a military man who approaches the business of war with a cavalier attitude. This suitor comes in for some very harsh criticism. The criticisms that Avisa levels at this suitor are political in their nature this is an indication that the Cavaleiro is a political figure himself.

I think some extremely ugly insinuations are made in this dialogue  and that it represents the darkest part of the full libel .

Avisa calls this figure a new comer , she claims to not to know what he is where he is from or even his name but I believe that all of Avisa's statements have been written in Ironia so if this suitor is a newcomer to Avisa the translation in Ironia would be , This suitor is the most familiar of all to Penelope.

Avisa is particularly harsh on this suitor who is described as frequenting prostitutes in Coleman's hedge , he is a military man with a string of costly military fiascoes to his name.

He is shown to be a gambler and a risk taker who promises enormous quick wealth but actually has no money on hand. He is shown to be suffering from venereal disease and being called a Caveleiro he is firmly placed into the Spanish style of lover who as the introduction tells us is very impatient and emotionally unstable.

Despite being depicted as being a despicable person this suitor is definitely an aristocrat. Avisa addresses him as Sir and Your Worship both terms were used to address a person of rank.

The Caveleiro makes some statements about his relationship with Avisa in Canto X1111 he seems to imply that he is frequently absent on military campaigns.

? A stranger seem I as yet

seldom seene before this day canto X1111 line 30- 31 verse 5

But in the same Canto seems to imply that he is well known to Avisa and they have previously been on loving terms with each other.

? From love you cannot me refraine

I seek but this love me again? Line 16=17 verse 2

Avisa makes many barbed comments towards this suitor, she is weary of his war-like behavior and also of the financial cost of his exploits.

The two trade comments , he likens his suite to a military siege and states in Canto X1X

?To plant a siege and yet depart

Before the towne be yielded quite

It kills a manly martial hart? Canto X1X verse 6 lines 31-32

Avisa in Canto XX bawdily replies

?Though you be loth to blow retreat

This mount's too strong for you to get

The wisest captaine now and then

When he feeles his foe too strong

Retreats betime to save his men

That grow but weak if siege be long

No captaine did or ever shall

Set ladder here to scale the wall.? Canto XX verse 4

These lines seem to be making a veiled reference to a military event and both participants appear to be describing the same event. I believe they are both referring to the recent failed siege of the walled French city of Roens in 1591 which was led by Penelope Rich's brother Robert Devereux. This full campaign was a disastrous and costly debacle that resulted in the death of Robert Devereux's only brother Walter Devereux.


Robert Devereux proved himself in this campaign to be a liability refusing to retreat and ignoring direct orders from the Queen. His attitude was cavalier and his forces became severely weakened and suffered heavy casualties from the prolonged siege . His brothers death was unnecessary and was the result of an act of bravado that involved charging in full view of the enemy Robert Devereux had instigated this rash act and he was widely blamed for his own brother's death.

Devereux's approach to warfare was like the Caveleiro that of a gambler who tended to either win or lose heavily. Devereux was eventually ordered to return to England where he faced withering criticism. The criticisms of this person by Avisa of his warmongering and fiscally irresponsible actions were exactly the same criticisms that the Cecil faction and Queen Elizabeth had been directing against Robert Devereux.

The reference it kills a manly martial heart is likely a reference to the death of Walter Devereux who was a respected soldier with a far more stable temperament than Robert Devereux. Walter's death was a personal crisis for Robert Devereux and the fact that the Caveliero is pleading for Avisa to love him again may be an indication that there may also have been a falling out between Robert and Penelope following the death of her brother and perhaps she also considered him responsible .

Like the Caveliero Robert Devereux was known to be suffering from venereal disease and he was treated by the Queen's personal physician Dr Roderigo Lopez. Devereux would later aggressively torture this person and frame him for plotting to poison the Queen Lopez was not guilty of these charges but Devereux to the fury of the Cecils had him executed. The precise details of his death remain complex but it is known that he had been carelessly gossiping that he was personally treating Robert Devereux for venereal disease , this information would be very damaging to Devereux's standing in Elizabeth's court if it became common knowledge.

Many insinuations are made by Avisa that the Caveliero was involved in ?secret dealings? , Robert Devereux is known to have had a spy network that rivaled the Cecils own network.

The Caveliero is described as having shaggy locks and a wannie face, portraits of Robert Devereux agree with this description.

An incestuous relationship ?

The marginal note of the Caveleiro dialogue is a reference to  the Biblical passage of  1. Corinthians 5. This is a passage of the Bible that is dealing with incest. Why is the author directing our attention to this specific passage ?? Is a dark insinuation of an incestuous relationship being made  here ?

 Robert and Penelope were known to be very close but the insinuation probably isn't true however incest was not unknown amongst the English aristocracy.

Avisa tells the Caveliero that she fears that she will catch the pocks from him but all of Avisa's speeches have been written in Ironia and the translation is very scandalous - if Avisa avoids catching the pocks then Penelope did not.

This is a very ugly suggestion which again probably isn't true but venereal disease was rife amongst English aristocracy it is not impossible that Penelope Rich may have also had the disease.

This suitor accuses Avisa on multiple occasions of being an unchaste woman who has a sideways glance and a blushing face, and accuses her of hiding secrets . Robert Devereux was aware of his sister's secret dealings.

The deliberate and unnecessary mention of the death of Penelope's brother also shows the ugly depths to which this libel is willing to plumb. We have also seen the author deliberately make Avisa sing a song set to the tune of a ballad commemorating the death of Penelope Rich's father and we appreciate that Willobie His Avisa is starting to reveal itself as a very personal and unsporting libel that is attacking a vulnerable target.

We now appreciate that this libel is not simply attacking and looking to personally upset and shame Penelope Rich but it is also attacking the men who were closest to her. The men closest to Penelope Rich were all from the Essex circle.

A lewd and ambiguous exchange takes place between the Cavaliero and Avisa

Cav- Leave open your point take up your man

And mine shall enter quickly then - Canto X1111

Therefore wench be not so strange to grant me

That , which OTHERS have. Canto XV11.

Avisa, You think that others have possessed the place that you so lewdly crave ?

Wherein you plainly have confessed

Yourself to be a jealous knave. Canto XV111.


Avisa acts out of character a number of times with the Caveliero as I have earlier indicated whenever Avisa breaks character it is an indication that the device of Ironia has been switched on.

In Canto XV111 a footnote with a biblical quote appears it reads that a young man was stricken blind for dishonestly looking at a godly woman but as she often does Avisa twists this Biblical quote and warns the Caveliero to beware because ? A lusty youth has been stricken blind by a godly wench with a godless mind and shall burn in hell for this sin?.

What precisely is the moral here ? why would chaste Avisa who is personally being courted by the immoral Caveliero be warning him about the dangers of immoral women ???

This is clearly Ironia in action Avisa is really insinuating that Penelope is a godly wench with a godless mind who has completely captivated a young man and that the same fate as the youth -damnation in hell awaits the Cavalerio .

 34: Does The Cavaleiero know H.W ?

The only lusty youth who is mentioned in Willobie His Avisa is H.W. who does indeed become blindly infatuated with Avisa. This is the only time Avisa discusses another suitor  with a suitor   so why would Avisa be telling The Cavaleiro this ? Is this an indication that The Cavaleiro knows This lusty youth H.W ?) . If The Cavaleiro is Robert Devereux and The lusty youth H.W. is Henry Wriothesley then in real life they certainly did know each other . Robert Devereux was Henry Wriothesley's closest friend. And Penelope Rich was Robert Devereux's sister . We really have to consider what is the author trying to do here ? Is the author trying to reveal to Robert Devereux that Henry Wriothesley was infatuated with his sister ? - Was the author trying to cause friction between Wriothesley and the entire Devereux family ? with the intended result that Robert Devereux  ( Who Wriothesley  idolised) would tell Wriothesley to leave his sister alone  ?  The author has severely libeled Robert Devereux  .Did the author of Willobie His Avisa dislike the entire Devereux family and not want H.W. to be associating with them since he considered all members of the Devereux family to be a destructive influence on the  vulnerable H.W.???.


In Canto XV  The Cavaleiro comments that Avisa has the face of an unchaste woman to which Avisa replies ,

" My face and will do not agree which you in time (perhaps) may see ".

This is not a particularly convincing statement  why should there be any doubt that the Cavaliero will discover that her face and will do not agree ?,this is classic Avisa always claiming to be  a chaste woman but always slipping some nagging element of doubt into her statement.

The Cavaliero is not remotely convinced of Avisa's chastity and he gives her a warning that her days of being seen as a chaste and virtuous woman are about to end.

"The time and place will not permit

That you can long here spotless sit" .

Avisa idolizes a whore ...

In Canto XV111 Avisa  starts to lose her patience with the Cavaleiro's lewd requests and surprisingly shows a knowledge of the ancient Roman legal system and calls for the law of Julia to be reinstated.

This is most extraordinary because the Roman law ( Lex Julia) was heavily biased against female rather than male adulterers.

Under this law a  woman had no right to bring charges against her husband if he committed adultery but if the woman  did then she was punishable by exile, it was permitted for her father and in some instances her husband to execute her.

The father also had the right to kill both participants of the crime.

We simply have to wonder why Avisa is invoking a  law that promises harsh penalties for adultery AFTER the crime has been committed  is Avisa not making the insinuation  that the crime of adultery has already occurred and that she is involved?

Even the way that Avisa invokes the law of Julia seems to be ironic.

In Canto XV11 Avisa appears to be appealing to the woman associated with Julia's law. The passage reads 

" Julia flower of thy time

Where is thy law where is thy word ?

That doth condemn the wedlock crime ?"

 The woman associated with The Law of Julia was Julia the Younger.

The Emperor Augustus formulated the Law of Julia and was forced to exercise it on his own daughter Julia who was an adulteress.

In personally appealing to Julia Avisa is making a monumental error . We are told Avisa has been blessed by Pallas Athena with an extraordinary intellect , therefore is she not aware that the law of Julia was not formulated by Julia herself ? Does she not know Julia was a whore who had hoards of suitors and most certainly was not the flower of her time ???

A foot note appears alongside this passage which directs the reader to  The Roman Law of Julia . The reason why this is present is because the author wants the reader to do their own research on  The Law of Julia . If the reader does this it becomes apparent that "chaste" Avisa is idolizing a whore and  the author Avisa is unmasking Avisa as being a whore herself.

This passage is presenting a double  irony  not only is Avisa invoking a draconian law that was particularly harsh on adulteresses Avisa is also breaking character by idealizing a woman who according to Corrnelieus Seneca admitted adulterers in droves.

In Canto XV1 Avisa complains that she attracts many suitors and also states

" But sir it is against my use,

For gain to make my house a stewes "( A brothel).

This is again an allusion back to the Homeric tale of The Odessey in which droves of suitors encamp at Penelope's house drink wine and start cavorting with the maids of Penelope, in some alternative versions of this tale Penelope has a relationship with the chief suitor Antinous and bears him a child.

Throughout the text of Willobie His Avisa , there are consistent references made that compare Avisa to Penelope yet Hadrian Dorrell ironically tells us that we "cannot possibly " compare Avisa with Penelope.

At the end of the dialog Avisa gives the Caveliero a long lecture condemning his relationships with prostitutes (this accusation could be correct for Robert Devereux) and states that she fears she will catch the pocks from him. Having said all of this she promptly wishes him good luck pours him a cup of wine and the two part on better terms than any of the other suitors !

What the author is doing here is grouping the two together and stating that despite all of Avisa's moralistic talk her unchaste persona -Penelope is on the same level as this very immoral suitor. Their friendly parting indicates that Penelope and her brother have resolved their differences and the cup of wine is a device indicating the blood bond that exists between the two.

35:The Cavaleiro is Avisa's Brother.

However the real clincher that this suitor is intended to be Penelope's brother appears in Canto XV111 line 7 verse 2 when after criticizing the Cavaleiro's immorality Avisa unexpectedly makes a specific Biblical quote.

?Saint Paul commands us not to eat e with one that leads a wicked life?.

We need to examine this important quote . This quote comes from Corinthians 5.11 and the full quote reads ? If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator or covetous or rather a drunkard with such a one do not eat?. Of all the Biblical quotes that she could have chosen why has Avisa picked this particular one?

With this quote Avisa is revealing that this amoral suitor is in fact her brother and as always Avisa makes a Biblical quote then promptly ignores it and does the opposite. She sits down and pours him a cup of wine.

This is again breaking character and an indication that Ironia is again in play so what is being insinuated is that this suitor is really Penelope's brother.

Another important point is that wine is a symbol of fornification / adultery . In Revelations 18.3 the Bible warns against the whore of Babylon and advises against the drinking of her wine of fornication..

This suitor refuses to leave Avisa alone until she agrees to swear an oath that she is a chaste woman she obliges but only after giving the Cavaleiro a lecture about the dangers of making hastily sworn oaths.

The Cavaliero states,

?If thou wilt sweare that thou hast knowne

In carnal act no other man but only one and he thine owne

Since man and wife you first began? Canto XX1 lines 18-21 verse 3.

This is an important passage in her interpretation of Willobie His Avisa Barbara de Luna believed that Avisa was Queen Elizabeth but Queen Elizabeth's ?marriage? to England was symbolic only and this passage is referring to a marriage and carnal act with a specific man .

Avisa is definitely a married woman and as such cannot be Queen Elizabeth.The author is also implying that Avisa has broken her oath of marital fidelity. To break an oath in Elizabethan Times was an action  believed to incur certain damnation. 

The Cavaliero is visiting Avisa at night 

During his courting the Cavaliero states rhat he wants to visit Avisa during  the night. He instructs her to unlock yhe door and take up her man ( ? her watchman ) Avisa refuses the Cavaliero's offer.

Following this passage Avisa makes another statement that " promotes " the virtue of her husband and her loyalty towards him  but as usual for Avisa this statement comes loaded with double meanings.

Him whome free consent

By wedlocke words hath made my spouse

From others yet I am as free,

As they that this night that boren be.

Boren in this context means burdened  and this statement could certainly be interpreted as Avisa gloating that she is not like others who are burdened in the night - in other words she may be married but is still  available.

What also very noticeable with this dialogue is that Avisa is revealing that it is now night  - a time that she had earlier  refused to meet him.

Rhe Cavaliero does not leave until Avisa has entertained him with a cup of wine  .

The Cavaleiro's choice of drink ,wine rather than ale suggests that despite his bawdy manners he is actually an upper class clientele. There is also the insinuation that he has drunk from the cup of Avisa the cup of wine also has a biblical  allusion to the whore of Babylon.

The take home message from this full dialogue is that Avisa and the Cavaleiro are brother and sister and that both are syphilitic.

Avisa's Child ?

 Despite Avisa being presented as a thirty year old wife who has been married for ten years the text does not directly indicate that she is a mother . This would be unusual for an Elizabethan woman. However the foot notes to the text twice refer to a child. And the reference of a woman with a child appears in conjunction with two different suitors.

In the Cavaliero dialogue  two Biblical references appear side by side the first is  1 Corinthians 5 - A passage that describes the sin of incest. Alongside this is a reference to Revelations 12. Revelations 12 describes an exemplary woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a man - child  she  then is pursued by the devil who appears as a  huge red monster she acquires Eagle Wings and flies to safety. Why are we being referred to this particular passage ?Is the author of Willobie His Avisa making a revelation of his own  ? Looking at the fundamental elements of this passage we have the motifs of a pregnant woman  sin and Eagles wings. Willobie His Avisa depicts Avisa as an "Exemplary" woman and it also depicts her as an Eagle. So is a Biblical quote being twisted and is Avisa being singled out here ? Is the insinuation that  The Exemplary Eagle woman ( Avisa) is pregnant with a child born of sin ?

If we look at the symbolism that comes with The Woman of the Apocalypse we see Eagle Wings  an exemplary woman  a war between good and evil and a reference to St Michael Fighting a dragon . Avisa  comes with all of these images . She is a woman who brings ruin to her suitors, She is depicted as an Eagle and she hangs the badge of a Dragon fighting Saint ( Saint George) from her house.  n the H.W dialogue  another reference is made . In this dialogue again two footnote references appear side by side . The first is from Ovid and it states that idleness causes adultery this is clearly directed at H.W. who Avisa accuses of being idle.

The second reference states David being idle fell to strange lusts. This is a reference to the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba  . In this story David became lustful for his neighbors wife he seduced her and they had an illegitimate child.

The third reference to a child is seen in a footnote in the D.H. dialogue in which it is stated that the Babylonians sold their wives and daughters into prostitution for money.

Once again looking at the elements of this quote we see  sin , money ( Riches) prostitution  and mother and daughter. And that this is occurring in the dialogue of a suitor who I identfy as being Charles Blount.  It is known that Penelope had an illegitimate daughter with Charles Blount in 1592 .

In all references I think insinuations are being made that Avisa has had children through whoring . We know that by 1592 Penelope Rich already had an illegitimate daughter to Charles Blount . By this stage  She also had five children to Robert Rich But is this libel casting doubt on the paternity of all of her children  ? Is it suggesting  Penelope and Robert Devereux were in an incestuous relationship and also had a child ?  Is the ugly suggestion here  that Robert Rich's heir was actually Robert Devereux's child ? Also is an insinuation being made that  Wriothesley's real heir  was  also one of Avisa's illegitimate children ? Was this the real reason Wriothesly was refusing to marry ???

It can't be true... or can it ?

We have a preconceived opinion of who and what Penelope Rich was

and the possibility of her being in an incestuous relationship with her brother and having his child  absolutely does not fit  with our view of Penelope as being an unfortunate victim. Certainly this is a most explosive claim and it was never historically recorded but could it be true ?

In 1633 The playwright John Ford published his controversial play The Broken Heart . In this plays introduction Ford insists that the play has been based on truth. This play has been extensively studied by scholars and they are  unanimous in their belief that the play is recording episodes in the life of Penelope Rich.  The characters presented are . Penthea who represents Penelope Rich , Bassanes who represents  Robert Rich , Ithoclese  who represents Robert Devereux and Orgilus who represents Philip Sidney. It is noticed in his eulogy to Philip Sidney Edmond Spenser merged Astrophil and Stella into a single flower that he called Penthia.

In this play Penthea is unhappy in her marriage to  Bassanes she acknowledges her Earlier love for Orgilus but no longer loves him and now is dismissive of him . Her husband Bassanes is a jealous and wealthy Noble man who is particularly jealous of Penthea and her brother The Military man  Ithoclese . It is at this point Ford drops his bombshell . The Noble Man Penthias husband  accuses Penthea and her brother of the bestial sin of incest .

The play is interesting on multiple levels the audience of the day like the modern scholars absolutely would have picked that Penthia was intended to be Penelope Rich . By 1633 Penelope Robert Rich Charles Blount and Philip Sidney were all dead  and Penelope Rich was now a publicly disgraced figure  this meant  Ford had the freedom to write without the fear of reprisal.

 By 1633 Penelope's relationships with Philip Sidney and Charles Blount were common knowledge but the play  doesn't mention Penelope's relationship with Charles Blount  instead it is focusing on an incestuous relationship between Penelope and her brother. Ford insists that this was the truth .  Fords depiction of Penelope as an unhappy wife who had a former lover and who eventually died of a broken heart were all historically correct . So was Ford also correct with his accusation of Incest  ?  When Ford wrote his play   Penelope's relationship with Charles Blount was old news  so was Ford revealing something new about Penelope that may not have been widely known ?

The accusations in Fords play are in keeping with the accusations made in Willobie His Avisa.  In Willobie His Avisa Avisa is very cold and Harsh to D.B ( Philip Sidney) despite his genuine love for her . Willobie his Avisa is also making  an insinuation of an incestuous relationship between Avisa and her brother and that a sinful child arose from this . Ford play is insinuating the same thing .

In Willobie His Avisa's  companion libel Penelope's Complaint  much is made of the relationship between Penelope and her eldest son Telemachus . Telemachus is constantly ashamed of his mother and is always chastising her for her flirtatious behavior. The suitors tell Telemachus his father is dead  ( He doesn't have a father) and that his mother is a whore  who he needs to throw out of the house and claim his inheritance. I read this  as an indication from the author  that there was something wrong with Telemachus'  paternity . between  In her trial for treason following the Essex rebellion Penelope said that she was less of a sister to Robert Devereux and more of a slave to him - What exactly was she insinuating ??? .  

:The third suitor .The man who genuinely loves Avisa.

D.B. Dudum Beatus ( Latin for blessed until now) is the third suitor. He approaches Avisa in a way that is different to all the other suitors.

He clearly idolizes Avisa, he never insults her, he reveals that he has known her for longer than any of the other suitors. ( This confirms my earlier suspicion that the suitors are not being presented in strict chronological order).

He tells her that she is his first and last love. He is given the persona of a French style of lover , a style that lends itself to a long and dedicated courtship.

In Canto XX111 he states,

? Your present state wants present aide

Ile find a salve to heale your smart?

and ?from dangerous bands I set you free?.

In this context bands refers to wedding bands and this suitor seems to be insinuating that he knows that Avisa/Penelope is unhappy in her marriage and that he is actively trying to court her.

The author of Willobie His Avisa is relatively gentle in his treatment of this suitor depicting him as being misguided in his affections rather than being an actual immoral person.

D.B. offers Avisa a modest forty pounds per annum and a diamond ring and a posie ( Posie is an Elizabethan word meaning love poem). That reads ? Do not dally?.

Avisa of course rejects his offers and returns his ring complaining that he is offering Brass instead of Gold . This is a bit rich ( pardon the pun) coming from a woman who has just turned down a thousand pound offer.

She also complains about his posie stating ? Your chosen posie seems to show that all my deeds but dallings be? Canto XXX11 line 20 verse 4.

What she is saying here is that she dislikes his poetry because it seems to depict her actions as being immoral.

It is certain that this suitor represents Sir Philip Sidney. His speeches contain many quotes such as burning heartand prisoner of love that come straight out of theAstrophil and Stella sonnet sequence.

We are told D.B. is a Frenchman , Sidney's family was French in Origin and he was  related to William Sidney from Anjou.

D.B. reveals himself to be a writer , a poet and a well traveled scholar. He writes two highly poetic letters to Avisa that contain learned quotes from the Bible and also references to the Ionian Sea , there is a quote from the Greek scholar Leonicus de Varia that describes a place in Greece which burns with an eternal flame. We recall that Sidney was well travelled , schooled in the European classics and had learned from many non English sources and was personally tutored by the philosopher/ shaman John Dee .He had also set his romances in the Greek province of Arcadia.

Avisa in her first letter is dismissive of D.B.'s education and describes him as being schooled by heathen fools.

In his first letter to Avisa D.B. writes of his love ?The greater the frost, the greater the fire, so frames it with my love or loss that fiercely fries amidst the frost my heart inflamed with a quenchless heat?. Canto XXX1 lines 9-12 verse 2. These quotes come from Petrarch and Sidney was known as ?The English Petrarch?.

These same quotes are found in Sidney's own Astrophil and Stella , where Astrophil ( Philip Sidney) describes his thwarted love for Stella (Penelope Rich) D.B. says that he has pined for Avisa for five years and that his death is imminent .

This again fits with Sidney . Penelope was married in 1581 and Sidney died exactly five years later still broken hearted. Avisa complains that this suitor feels lust and not love for her and I think that many readers of theAstrophil and Stella sonnet sequence would actually agree with that sentiment.

In Canto XXV1 Avisa gives an important clue about the identity of D.B.

?How frames it with your sober lookes

To shroud such bent of lewd conceits

What hope has pla'st me in your bookes

That files me fit for such deceits? ? Canto XXV1 lines 7-10 verse 2

This is telling us that despite his respected and gentlemanly demeanor D.B. is an author who has written books ( note the plural) that describe his lust for Avisa . This is a definite allusion to Philip Sidney , Sidney was the consummate gentleman and he wrote a number of books that described his thwarted love and lust for Penelope Rich.

The fact that D.B. is an author is further reinforced by the fact that the two keep making references to books and printed works. In Canto XXV he reiterates his love for Avisa and states ? My workes shall show I wish you well?.

37: Delays and daliances

Throughout this dialogue there are many allusions to  fond delays/ strange delays and dalliances all terms are serving as metaphors for sexual dalliances.

In Canto XX111 D.B. tells Avisa that he does not want to be delayed.

Thy present state wants present aid

A quick redresse my grief requires let not the means

Be Long delayed.

This is an allusion to Penelope who delays her suitors before chosing one D.B. again references this myth in Canto XXXV11

I know you will chose one at last

Then chosing one let me be he

Yet again one of the suitors is comparing Avisa to Penelope - something Dorrell " assures" us we cannot do.

In Canto XXX1 ( D.B.'s letter to Avisa) D.B. writes

"With these lines I send a ring

The posie means a prettie thing

That bids do but dally not,

Do so sweet heart , and do not stay

For dangers grow in fond delay"

Fond delay is clearly a double entendre for sexual dalliance. Despite his love for Avisa D.B. reveals that he knows her to be an unchaste woman and he is actually advising her against this type of lifestyle.

Avisa is aware that  D.B. can see through her fa├žade but she plays the innocent and answers with typical ambiguity .

Canto XXX11

Your chosen posie seems to show

That all my deeds but dallings be"

I never dallyed that I know

And that I think you partly see.

When we read Astrophil and Stella we see that Sidney does indeed write about dalliances with Stella ( Penelope Rich).Especially in Song Ten where Astrophil speaks to Stella.

Think , think of those dallyings ,

When with dove like murmurings

With glad moaning passed anguish

We change eyes , and heart for heart

Each to other do impart,

Joying till joy make us languish.

The continued references of delays and daliances and forlorn and forbidden love are reflections of Sidneys own dialogue with Penelope Rich that was immortalised in his sonnet sequence to her.

Avisa returns his engagement ring this is an allusion to Sidney's own broken engagement with Penelope Rich . Sidney was engaged to Penelope for four years but like D.B. ( who offers brass and not gold) he was ultimately rejected because he was not wealthy enough.



Again the dialog is biased against Penelope and seems to be insinuating that she alone was responsible for rejecting Sidney and sending him into a downward spiral that would ultimately end in his death.

But the real people who rejected Sidney's bid for marriage were Penelope Rich's minders Lord Huntingdon and William Cecil.

D.B. also reveals that he is a modest land owner , this was correct for Sidney , Avisa rejects his offer of forty pounds a year from the rent of his farm and suggests that his death is approaching and that he should divide his property amongst his friends. Again this is correct, Sidney on his death was not wealthy and was heavily in debt and most of his estate had to be sold to allow his in laws to recoup their significant loans to him.

In this dialog an important fact reveals itself D.B. pays a visit to Avisa and she tells him that he looks as if he has just arrived from London and asks him if he has been to a brothel there from this statement it is clear that Avisa's house is not in London .

To the reader it must seem strange that someone who has known Penelope since she was thirteen is introduced as the third suitor but there is a definite reason for this . The libel is activating yet another device . What is occurring is that suitors are being presented but what is also being shown is a time line of events in in Penelope Rich's life. That upto this point in the narrative has been running like this,

Prior to 1581 Penelope is engaged to Philip Sidney who is a commoner they have a relationship, this relationship overlaps with Penelope's engagement to Robert Rich . This event is alluded to in the Nobleman dialog where Avisa lets slip that she is already a ?poor man's wife?.

1581 Penelope is married to Robert Rich it is an unhappy union. This event is alluded to in Ironia in the Nobleman dialog.

1586 Death of her first lover Philip Sidney.

1591 Both her brothers are involved in the failed seige of Roens in France. Her brother Walter Devereux is unnecessarily killed in this conflict. These events are alluded to in the Cavaleiro dialog.

1591 First posthumous publication of Sidney's sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella . This publication poetically revealed that Penelope Rich as being the object of Astrophil's (Philip Sidney) love and lust.

Penelope consequently gained notoriety as being the muse of Philip Sidney and unwanted speculation about the true nature of her relationship with Philip Sidney started to arise. These events are all being alluded to in the D.B. dialog.

We now appreciate that the libel Willobie His Avisa is replaying and cynically and inaccurately depicting the sentinel events in Penelope Rich's life.

Penelope Rich's life was historically quite well documented and we know many

but not all of the events in Penelope Rich's life so we can now perform a thought experiment and make a prediction, if the libel Willobie His Avisa is really showing events in a chronological sequence that up to this point has taken us to 1591, then the next suitor is going to be Charles Blount and the time line will have jumped to mid 1593.

We can also expand this thought experiment, if we consider that Avisa/Penelope Rich is the dark lady of Shakespeare's sonnets then we will expect the next suitors after Charles Blount will be first William Shakespeare and then Henry Wriothesley in that specific order .

We will also predict that the character who is supposed to represent William Shakespeare will be a poet/actor/playwright and that the character who will represent Henry Wriothesley will be younger than William Shakespeare and Avisa and will be an aristocrat.

We know that Henry Wriothsley entered into a serious relationship with Elizabeth Vernon in early 1595 and we know that Charles Blount was posted to Portsmouth in December 1593 so our prediction is that the time line for the events of this triangular relationship will be the year 1594.

We make all of these predictions before we even read this libel any further, we need to continue with our decoding of the libel and determine whether or not any of these predictions eventuate ...

The introduction of a mock biography was a common trait of Elizabethan libels , Thomas Nashe used the device of introducing a defamatory and misleading biography into his libels that were targeting Gabriel Harvey.

Sidney was a Dudley on his mother's side and this was a fact that he was very proud of. He ferociously defended his relative Robert Dudley who was savagely attacked in the libel Leicester's Commonwealth and publicly declared his pride to be called a Dudley.

The nickname Dudum Beatis may be a pun on that name. Dudum Beatis states that Avisa's eyes were like glancing spears that pierced his heart this is an interesting comment when we consider that Sidney was an expert in jousting and also he considered Penelope's extraordinary jet black eyes to be her most attractive feature.

Sidney made frequent allusions in his sonnets to to his heart being pierced by darts that shot from Stella's eyes.

Doves and Eagles.

In Canto 1 we are given some background information about Avisa

?Yet sprang she not from Eagles nest

But turtle bred loves turtle best

The bird that doth resemble right

The turtl's faith in constant love ? Canto 1 line 42 verse 7

This is telling us that Avisa loved a Turtle Dove the best. The Turtle Dove poetically was a symbol of constant love . Sidney gave himself the persona of a Turtle Dove in song 11 of Astrophil and Stella. In addition other poets notably Mathew Roydon gave Sidney the persona of a Turtle Dove.

Turtle bred might be an allusion to the close family ties that existed between the Sidney and Devereux families also Sidney was distantly related to Penelope Rich and was the step cousin of Penelope Rich.

It is most revealing that Avisa calls D.B a Kite ( hawk) in the form of a Dove. This could well be an allusion to Sidney's Arcadia - In Sidney's Arcadia two characters appear ( Pyroclese and Philoclea) who are the pastoral guises  of Sidney and Penelope.

To woo Philoclea Pyroclese dresses as a woman changes his name to Cleophila  ( the reverse of Philoclea) as has an emblem which is an Eagle that is disguised as a Dove.

. Throughout the D.B dialog D.B. is clearly completely under the spell of Avisa yet even he doesn't believe that she is entirely chaste in his final letter to Avisa he ruefully states,

?To see the end my mind will crave

Where you will yield to other men (note the plural)

The thing that I could never have? Canto XXX111 line 32 verse 6.

Philip Sidney was a revered figure and following his death he became the first commoner to be given a state funeral.

Throughout this dialog Avisa adopts a very pitiless persona towards him and D.B. writes very plaintively towards her and frequently makes mention of his imminent death.

?Though my body take his flight

Yet shall my heart remaine behind

That shall your guilty conscience tell

That you have not used his master well

When we each other cannot see

My hart will make you think of me.? Canto XX1X verse 3

It is clear that the author is blaming Penelope Rich for Sidney's despondency and ultimate death and is trying to play on Penelope's conscience.

But Avisa is unmoved by this suitors sincerity and hardheartedly rejects him and makes light of his imminent death. She signs her letter ? Always the sameAvisa? .This particular signature would have made all Elizabethan readers think that Avisa was Queen Elizabeth 1st because Sempre Eadem or Always the same

 was Queen Elizabeth's personal motto.

This signature has convinced a number of modern scholars that this is evidence that Avisa was Queen Elizabeth. But what these researchers did not realize was that any speech that Avisa makes or any letter that she writes is a lesson in Ironia.

Always the same Avisa is the signature of a queen of chastity its translation in Ironia is Never the same Penelope in other words every time Avisa signs her letters as Always the same she is implying that her real signature should read Inconstant Penelope.

Despite Avisa's rejection of him D.B. always behaves in a gentlemanly manner towards her and clearly still has deep affection for her. This fits with Sidney who always wrote very highly of Penelope despite her questionable behavior and never stopped loving her.

The translation Of Dudum Beatis -Blessed until now may be a snide commentary on the fact that Sidney was a widely idolized figure but there was a consensus that his reputation was tarnished in the final two years of his life by Penelope Rich's unchaste behavior.

With this scenario we are reminded that Willobie His Avisa is indeed a cynical and misogynistic rewriting of Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece and in this inverted version of Shakespeare's Lucrece it is the heroine Avisa who brings death and dishonor to her suitors.

Penelope Rich was criticized in some quarters for being indifferent to Sidney's protestations of love . Other poets notably Edmund Spenser , John Harrington and Walter Raleigh criticized Sidney for his excessive and inappropriate idealization of a married woman.

Avisa herself echoes these criticisms.

38: The fourth suitor... The Man Avisa  does not refuse.

This suitor is given the unusual name of Dydimus Harco , I don't know what exactly this means , and perhaps it is an allusion to the fastidious Greek scholars Dydimus and Harpocration . However it is very clear who this suitor is . We are shown that he is of intermediate wealth i.e. above Sidney but below Robert Rich . He offers to hire Avisa for one hundred pounds . He is quite an intellectual person who appears to be classically educated and is described as being Anglo-Germanic. He is described as being good looking , in perfect health and also being somewhat shy and not a particularly confident in his speech and being prone to blushing.

This suitor tells Avisa that although he is rich  he does not like to boast about his money and also that he is the strong silent type who is incapable of flattery .

He makes mention of long absences and tells Avisa that he has known her for ten years and that ultimately over time she will chose him over all other suitors.

In Canto XXX1111 he states ? I love a woman now and then and yet it is my common use to take advise before I chuse?.This is an indication that unlike the other suitors he doesn't rush into relationships and may be a person who is more in control of his emotions. This suitor seems to be quite worldly wise and has traveled internationally and extensively within England.

He tells Avisa that she is the first woman that he has tried . Despite her mandatory put downs and protestations of chastity it is clear that Avisa quite likes the look of this suitor and affords him a back-handed compliment stating that he is ?so fair without despite being foul within?.Canto XXXV line 20 verse 4 .This is the first time that Avisa admits that a suitor is handsome.

She also describes the bracelet worth twenty angels (the equivalent of ten pounds) as being gorgeous this is something that she never did with any of the other suitors gifts that were significantly more expensive.

Avisa and this suitor seem to have quite a history and Avisa tells him she has rebuffed him three previous times , this could be an indication that they are involved in an on again -off again type of relationship and it seems to be that it is this suitor who has had trouble committing. This impression is reinforced when this suitor almost abandons his suit very early on in his dealings with Avisa . None of the other suitors act like this , and it becomes clear that whilst this suitor loves Avisa and Avisa appears to like him back this suitor has real issues in committing himself to Avisa..

In Canto XXX1X Avisa indicates that she flatly refuses all of his advances and will not accept any tokens of his affection whatsoever. But again she acts out of character ( a certain indication that the opposite is actually occurring).

The footnote of this canto warns that ?The woman who receiveth gifts of such suitors selleth her self and her liberty?.But Avisa does not listen to this advice at the end of the Avisa /D.H. dialog prior to his parting D.H. offers Avisa a ring as a token of his love that she does not refuse..This might well be  a veiled allusion to Blounts secret engagement to Penelope which is believed to occured in 1590.

Also on parting D.H. tells Avisa that he truly loves her and knows that she will accept him , Avisa seems somewhat ambivalent to this suitor and states

? If all be true that you protest

Then you shall find as you deserve

And hidden truth tyme will betray

This is as much as I can say? Canto XL111 line 4-6 verse 1.

This is saying that she doesn't out-rightly reject his advances and even indicates that he may be successful with her. She is also stating that in time the full truth about their relationship will be revealed


But for now she will take a wait and see type approach towards him.

The ring that she does not refuse has an inscription that reads ? No friend to faith will remain till both of our deaths?.Canto XL11 line 52 verse  It is noticed  that only two suitors offer Avisa a ring  . (D.B. and D.H. ) Avisa refuses D.B.'s ring but does not refuse D.H.'s ring.


This is an admission that both parties have abandoned the decrees of their faith by being involved in an adulterous relationship in other words they will both be no friend to religion and will both be living in sin until their dying day.

The fact that Avisa/ Penelope does not refuse D.H.'s ring is an indication that their relationship is a sinful and ongoing one..

This Suitor is Charles Blount 8th Baron Mountjoy, he had

  Anglo-Germanic  heritage being a descendant of Prince Gottfried of Denmark. He was a member of the Essex circle and was a soldier who was physically very fit.

His contemporaries described him as being strong silent handsome and naturally modest. This would fit with the description of D.H. as being a poor public speaker who did not like to boast about his wealth.

Blount had known Penelope for  ten years , they first met and may have begun their affair  in 1583. 1594 ( the year of Willobie His Avisa'spublication represented the tenth summer that he had known her ).

It may well be true that Penelope was Charles Blount's first love because we cannot historically link him with any other woman in 1583. Blount was known to blush readily and it was historically documented that it was this tendency of his that first endeared him to Queen Elizabeth.

Like D.H. Charles Blount was always traveling . The D.H. dialog seems to show him suddenly appear after a long absence then proclaim his love and disappear again. This was correct for Charles Blount did not return to England until the winter of 1593 after a three year posting in France. on December of that same year Elizabeth posted him to Portsmouth for another long military posting any contact that he would have had with Penelope in 1593 would have been very fleeting.

Once again the biographical information that is being offered by the suitors  with the known historical information of the suitors of Penelope Rich.

The author states D.H. knows Avisa from a previous meeting but has only recently shown up after a long absence. D.H. also makes mention of an Italian stream that is initially cold but slowly heats the bather . This is an indication that he has recently returned from a long absence abroad.

After a long absence Ulysses   shall claim his Penelope.

Like Ulysses D.H. has returned after a long absence to court Avisa this is a clear allusion to Ulysses  who after a ten year absence has to court Penelope as just one of a number of suitors. Long absences were also correct for  Charles Blount . In mid 1593 Charles Blount was ordered back to England by Queen Elizabeth he had been on a three year military posting in Brittany.

D.H mentions a recent unsuccessful attempt to Win Avisa but promises Avisa that he has changed since then and  now offers her his engagement ring.

Again this fits with Charles Blount - The Blount -Rich relationship had a major hiccup in 1593  and Penelope called the relationship off  because she knew Blount was never going to marry her. Blount had to return and retrieve the relationship. To do this Blount probably  gave Penelope an engagement ring and a promise of marriage  .

When Charles Blount made his formal case to marry Penelope Rich he revealed that he had commenced a relationship with Penelope on his return to England in 1593 and that this relationship had become an open secret by 1595.

However this relationship must have been broken for the year of 1594 because in December 1593 Blount was posted one hundred miles away to Portsmouth this was at least a year long posting and Blount was addressing all of his correspondences during 1594 from Portsmouth.

D.H. states that his relationship with Avisa will always be intermittent this was correct for Charles Blount who was put on long military postings for his entire life.

D.H. is described as being a merchant who ?rides for gain? and will endure any pain to arise early on time and travel until late.

It is unlikely that D.H. is a merchant , the term merchant and chapman were Elizabethan slang for a scoundrel or an immoral person a merchant who rides for gain sounds like a derogatory innuendo, this impression is supported by the introduction which states that degenerate young men have ?for an angel and a great deal lesse have hired nagges to ride at their pleasure and such as make a sinfull gaine of a filthy carkasse?. Epistle to the reader line 150.

D.H. certainly doesn't speak like a merchantman and the description of someone who is frequently away is often traveling and will suffer any pain to arise early and travel until late is an indication that he is a person with a strict constitution who has obligations that he must meet.

The naming of D.H. as a merchant is most interesting brcause in Elizabethan times merchants were often criticized for making money their God . Or in other words Idolizing  Riches.

39 :Avisa insinuates that her real name is Penelope. 

In the dialog Avisa criticizes D.H. by comparing and contrasting him to her husband . Her ?sweet Ulysses ? she tells him is never involved in the sack of Troy or travels to foreign lands and that he is always present and by her side.

This is insinuating that D.H. is a soldier in wars and is frequently absent and in foreign countries . We know all of this to be correct for Charles Blount.

In calling her husband Ulysses Avisa is of course intimating that her real name is Penelope in openly calling herself Penelope Avisa is "breaking" the rules because we are told that Avisa cannot be compared with Penelope and that Avisa and Penelope are two different people - but Avisa is revealing that they are really one and the same .

The dialog makes it clear that D.H. has been seeing Avisa intermittently for a long time and tells her ? My first love for you was only lust but now my love is honest?. Canto XL11 line 7 verse 2. he also states ? At first I thought you little more than a common whore?. This isan indication that he is a more discerning suitor than the Cavaleiro who was happy to mix with common whores .D.H. does not seem to want to commit to a permanent relationship with Avisa and seems to want to keep the relationship on an informal and secret basis. This could be correct because Charles Blount took his time to formalize his relationship with Penelope Rich and did not attempt to make it a legal marriage until 1605.

In Canto XXXV111 D.H. and Avisa go together on a long and private walk D.H. schools her and tells her to ?Keep close the tenor of our talke and say we did for pleasure walk? Line 40 verse 6.

This of course is telling us that people have seen Avisa and D.H. spending time together and are starting to ask questions. D.H. is instructing Avisa/Penelope to keep secret their relationship.

In turn for this favor D.H. promises that he will not betray the secrets that he knows about Avisa.

Towards the end of the dialog D.H. visits Avisa's house where like the Penelope of Greek legend he sees her working with a spinning wheel with her maids.

This inspires him to write her a poem casting her as ?the Chaste Penelope ? of legend who will shoo away all other suitors and ultimately choose him, we recognize that this is a revision of the original Penelope myth.

D.H. amusingly calls his poem his Dum Habui (until I have) the fact that he would do this indicates that D.H. is a scholar who has an understanding of Latin. D.H. also reveals a knowledge of the Greek philosophers this was true for Charles Blount who was a highly educated and surprisingly bookish for a military man.

D.H.'s poem is very revealing we shall look at some verses of this poem.

?I sewed for grace but she deny'd

Her haughty lookes she cast awry.

And when my folly she espy'd,

She laughed to see my misery

Away she soars and from my sight.

She smilingly takes her parting flight.

You are the bird that bred the bane,

That swelleth thus in restlesse thought,

You are the snares that thus have tane.

And sences all to thraldome brought,

You are the jaylor that do keepe

your friend in bands and dungeon deepe.

Renown chaste Penelope. Canto XL line 36 -48 verse 6.

It is clear that D.H. is addressing this poem to the unchaste persona of Avisa who is known as Penelope.

The Penelope who is being described here is more in keeping with a femme-fatal like figure rather than the chaste Penelope of legend. This Penelope has hands that wear many rings instead of claws she has a rolling eye (Elizabethan term that implies a flirtatious and duplicitous woman) an Elizabethan proverb stated  " a roving eye means an unchaste heart".

She preys on hearts and it is her and not cupid who shoots the darts this implies that she aggressively courts suitors on her own volition.

We are also reminded of Sidney's description of Stella ( Penelope Rich) as a bird who flies higher than any other and who preys on hearts.

D.H. also describes Avisa as a being that had a woman's face but a bird's body and who lured him to his destruction this is the same way that Ovid described the sirens.

In this poem D.B. specifically states that he is a suitor who has courted Penelope for ten years this was historically correct for Charles Blount.

It is very revealing that both Avisa and D.H. both refer to Avisa as being Penelope we are reminded that this is in direct contradiction to the central argument of the book which states that Avisa cannot be compared to Penelope. We now recognize this as being a disingenuous argument.

Both Avisa and Penelope are linked to Avisa's house this is of course indicating that Avisa and Penelope are the same person. If Penelope is linked to Avisa's house then Penelope is linked to all of the other suitors who also all visit her house.

40: Sir Mount- Joy will possess

Penelope's "empty place"... 

We shall now look at the closing lines of D.H.'s poem

?Let tried faith for ten years space,

However that your spindle fill

With joy possesse that empty place.

And if you will I do protest,

My love shall far surmount the rest? . Canto XL line 62 verse 10.

In these bawdy lines we note the words joy and surmount in close proximity to each other I interpret this is a pun on Charles Blount's title and is implying Sir Mountjoy. What the passage is implying is that Sir MountJoy will possess Penelope's empty place.

In the D.H. dialogue D.H. swears an oath to Avisa that he loves her and offers her a ring. Swearing an oath in Elizabethan times was a most serious undertaking.The ring that DH offers Avisa is not refused this is in stark contrast to the ring that D.B. offers. This is an allusion to Penelope's secret engagement to Lord Mount Joy ( Charles Blount) . The author is also insinuating that although they are not yet living together D.H. is the man Avisa loves ... Therefore all other suitors ( In particular H.W.) need to  forget about her.

Earlier in the dialog Avisa warns D.H. that a witless child will cut itself playing with a sharp tool again I believe this to be a reference in ironia indicating a blunt tool this may be a bawdy reference to Charles Blount's surname. Mr D.H. is the one and only suitor who can tame the ferocious Avisa..

The author tells us that D.H. wanders to Avisa's house spies her spinning with her maids then returns to his home ( which the author also tells us is not close to where Avisa lives).

The two then communicate by letters. What this is telling us is that Avisa and D.H. are still in contact with each other but D.H. is not physically present  an opportunity now presents itself for the following two suitors W.S. and H.W.

41:The fifth Suitor (The English Ovid).


It is noticed that from the fifth suitor on wards the camouflage afforded to the suitors becomes increasingly thin and they become increasingly easy to identify. I believe that by this point in the dialog the only cover that these suitors are given is that their name appears in initials but these initials represent their real names.

This is because the author has now arrived at the climax of the book and wants to send an unmistakable and personal message to both W.S. and H.W.

He also wants to make it clear to the general readers exactly who is being referred to in this portion of the libel.

The dialog of the fifth suitor is of intense interest to us because it appears to be a contemporary allusion to William Shakespeare.

If this is the case then we must pay scrupulous attention to this dialog because no independent account of Shakespeare's personal life is known to exist.

It is also with the fifth suitor that the libel starts to enter into historically uncharted territory , this doesn't surprise me because I am very much of the belief that the libel Willobie His Avisa is indeed revealing new historical information.

The fifth suitor is one W.S. . W.S. is described as being recently infatuated with Avisa but now has recovered from this affliction.

He is described as being an old player player is an Elizabethan word for actor -something that we know Shakespeare was.

W.S. is also familiar with tragi-comedies ? something that we know Shakespeare wrote.

The words actor and player are both used in this dialog when we consider that terms that revealed the other suitors professions appeared in their earlier dialogs then a very strong case can be made that the author ofWillobie His Avisa is with these terms indicating that W.S. is someone who is associated with the theater.

As well as being an actor this suitor is clearly a poet and the speeches that he makes are butchered versions of a poem that will later appear under the name of William Shakespeare in the 1599 publication of The Passionate Pilgrim.(poem X1X).

W.S. is described as being a cynical self serving and intelligent person. He is not shown as being boisterous or arrogant as some of the other suitors have been , rather his personality is quiet and cunning and manipulative.

It is  clear that the author of Willobie His Avisa does not personally like or personally trust W.S.

The author describes W.S. as being the friend and familiar of H.W. familiar in this context is likely to represent a derogatory allusion to a witches familiar which was often a toad or some undesirable animal.

If W.S. does represent William Shakespeare and H.W. does represent Henry Wriothesley then this passage becomes very important because it is independently confirming that a friendship and familiarity existed between these two men.

Despite the fact that Shakespeare personally and warmly dedicated two long poems to Henry Wriothesley independent confirmation that Shakespeare personally knew Henry Wriothesley has actually eluded historians.

But could this passage  represent that elusive  independent  confirmation ?

This is very important because in Shakespeare had in 1593 and 1594 written two long poems and personally dedicated them to Henry Wriothesley . In these dedications Shakespeare clearly indicates his close friendship and allegiance to Henry Wriothesley.

This now assumes critical importance because it implies that Shakespeare and Wriothesley were friends at exactly the same time that the libel Willobie his Avisa was published -in 1594.

In other words we can link these two people at exactly the correct time for them to indeed be the W.S and the H.W. of the libel Willobie His Avisa.

W.S. is depicted as being a poor friend to the younger and emotionally vulnerable H.W. he is shown to laugh at H.W.'s distress and play games with his emotions.

The author places a lot of responsibility on W.S. and H.W. tells W.S. that his life depends on the quality of the advice that W.S. provides him with.

However H.W. is being depicted as being entirely blind to the duplicity of W.S. and his his friendship with H.W. is shown to be particularly close.

H.W. actively seeks W.S.'s personal advice for his personal problems and he seems to treat W.S. as a surrogate father-figure.

This could certainly fit with William Shakespeare who in the procreation sonnets offers The Fair Youth fatherly and personal advice about relationships with women. ( Henry Wriothesley's real father died when he was eight years old and he was made the ward of William Cecil a person whom he personally disliked).

W.S. is said to have attempted to woo Avisa on many occasions but failed on each occasion this is very reminiscent of the narrative of thwarted and unrequited love that runs throughout Shakespeare's Dark Lady sonnets.

In Willobie His Avisa W.S. and H.W. are depicted as being in love with the same woman and both are aware of each others infatuation with the same woman this is the same type of triangular love relationship that is described in Shakespeare's sonnets.

Willobie His Avisa tells us that W.S. was the first player to attempt to woo Avisa and that H.W. was the second this is the same order of events that are described in Shakespeare's sonnets.

Willobie His Avisa tells us that W.S. was angry and jealous of H.W.'s wooing of Avisa an identical scenario exists within Shakespeare's sonnets and we are reminded of sonnet 42 where Shakespeare bitterly complains to the fair youth stating ?Thou dost love her because thou knowest I love her.?

The strain placed on the friendship between W.S. and H.W. caused by H.W. being infatuated by Avisa is very evident and mirrors the dialog of Shakespeare's sonnets.

W.S. is shown as being an expert on the art of seducing women this indicates that he is quite a student of human nature and the advice that he gives H.W. on how to woo Avisa is significantly more sophisticated than the other suitors who simply want to draw up contracts as if insinuating that she is some type of high class prostitute.

W.S. seems to derive his authority solely from being a poetical and theatrical student of human nature. ( This certainly could fit with Shakespeare who did not attend university) however W.S. is definitely making Ovidian quotes.

42 :W.S. is quoting both Ovid and Shakespeare.

One source that W.S. does seem to make eloquent quotes from is poem X1X from The Passionate Pilgrim . This poem is also known as ?When as thine eye hath chose the dame?. This is a poem that has always been personally attributed to William Shakespeare.

In addition to Shakespeare's poem  W.S. is heavily   quoting from Ovid's Ars Amatoria - particularly Book 2 .( Ovids book of love). Ovid was Shakespeare's favorite poet and  is an author that Shakespeare is inextricably linked to and both Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece are examples of Ovidian narrative poems.

Shakespeare and his   poetry  was personally compared to Ovid during his own lifetime and Francis Meres stated.in 1598  So  the sweet wittie soule of Ovid lives in melliflous and honey tounged Shakespeare . Witness his Venus and Adonis his Lucrece his sugared sonnets.

No other suitor makes such ad verbatim quotes from a poet and The fact that W.S. is personally so familiar with Ovids work is a very strong indicator that he is himself a poet fully familiar with Ovidian verse.

We know this to be correct for William Shakespeare. 

We see that for a second time a poetic  suitor is clearly linked  to  a well known  poet of antiquity and this is a deliberate device that  sheds light on the suitor's  real identity.

We recall the suitor D.B. used many of Petrarch's conceits , D.B is a suitor who represents Philip Sidney  and Philip  Sidney was known as The English Petrarch, W.S. uses many Ovidian conceits and Shakespeare ( by Meres) was called The English Ovid and was known to have been heavily influenced by Ovid.

In his advice to H.W. on how to woo Avisa W.S. suggests to H.W. that he write poetry to her and gives H.W. specific advice on how to write this poetry this scenario may be alluded to In Shakespeare's sonnet 42 he complains that the fair youth has stolen the Dark Lady but in the final lines of the sonnet he states ?Sweet flattery my friend and I are one so she loves me alone?The sweet flattery here may be a snide reference to poetry that Shakespeare had personally written that Wriothesley was using to woo the Dark Lady.

The trilogy of the Parnassis plays also suggest a similar scenario of a foppish patron who employed a poet who was physically named as being master Shakespeare to write him poetry which the patron used to woo a beautiful woman.

The insinuation here is that Avisa was a woman who could be won through poetry this would indicate that she was a woman who appreciated poetry.

We know this was the case for Penelope Rich who was very interested in both literature and poetry .

Avisa is clearly interested in both literature and poetry because she keeps making literary quotes and also she composes her own poetry.

The fact that W.S. is encouraging H.W. to write poetry to Avisa is an indication that during his numerous attempts to woo Avisa W.S. has himself written poetry to Avisa .

The fact that a number of suitors write poetry to Avisa (H.W. W.S. D.B. and D.H. all do) is a revelation that Avisa is a poets muse.

We know that Penelope Rich was a muse for poets , artists and musicians and that she enjoyed and encouraged their company and did form very close friendships with these types of people.

The attitude of W.S. to observe a drama that is unfolding in real life and sit back and see if it will develop into a comedy or a tragedy is extremely suggestive of someone who is versed in play writing and the theater.

This is a cynical attack on Shakespeare what it is doing is suggesting that he is obtaining the inspiration for his writing by treacherously engineering a situation in real life then studiously watching it unfold.

It also suggests that William Shakespeare is describing real life events in his writings , I agree with this suggestion because I do believe Shakespeare's sonnets and some of his plays are referring to real life situations that Shakespeare was personally involved in.

The action of drawing inspiration from real life suggests that W.S. views real life as a stage and real people as players.

The attitude that all the world is a stage and people are but players is an attitude that Shakespeare was known to personally have .

We know this because the very words ?All the world is a stage ? were placed over the entrance to Shakespeare's theater The Globe.

It is mentioned by the author of Willobie His Avisa that W.S.'s infatuation with Avisa was widely ridiculed and laughed at , this scenario is not presented for any of the other suitors and is a real indication that as a lowly actor W.S. was striving for a woman who was completely out of his social class and as such it represented an inappropriate infatuation and also one that he had no realistic chance of consummating.

W.S. is not shown as being particularly wealthy and the only thing that he seems to be able to offer Avisa is his insightful and flattering writing.

In describing W.S. in such defamatory terms the author of Willobie His Avisa is revealing that he personally does not like W.S.

We remember that in the introductory poemHexameton to the author Shakespeare was singled out as a poet who praises immoral women .

We can also appreciate that there is actually no need to even introduce the W.S. dialog at all . Avisa does not interact with W.S. and the full dialog has no real bearing on the plot yet the author of Willobie His Avisa strongly feels the need to uncover the shortcomings and duplicity of W.S. and this author also feels the need to perversely rewrite and parody Shakespeare's own poem ?The Rape ofLucrece?.

This harks back to my earlier observation that one of the central themes of the libel Willobie his Avisa is to both discredit the personality of William Shakespeare and to cast aspersions on the artistic and moral merit of his writings.

To sum up W.S. is an Older actor who is friends with a young aristocrat H.W.is competing for the same woman as H.W. and speaks in rhymes that come from Ovid .. This sounds like Shakespeare to me.

When we consider all of these factors in confluence then the case that the full W.S. dialog represents a contemporary libel that is attacking William Shakespeare becomes very compelling.

We also get the impression that not only does the author of Willobie His Avisa dislike William Shakespeare he also seems to be personally upset about and envious of Shakespeare's close friendship with Henry Wriothesley. He also seems to be determined to show the ?real ?nature of William Shakespeare to Henry Wriothesley.

This type of personality assassination of between poets was commonly seen amongst Elizabethan poets who were competing for the same patron and I am entirely certain that this is exactly what is occurring here.

Like all the other suitors W.S. does not think that Avisa is really a chaste woman and he tells H.W. that ?She is no saint she is no nun I think in time she could be won?. Many scholars believe this to be a cynical rewriting of a Shakespearian quote and point out its similarities to the quote from Henry V1 part 1 act 5 which states ? She'sbeautiful and therefore to be wooed she is a woman and therefore to be won?.

This could definitely be the correct source because we know that the King Henry trilogy had already been performed in March of 1592 .

Although I submit that we should also consider ? She is no saint but an Earthly paragon?. from Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Also we should not ignore poem X1X from The Passionate Pilgrim where other quotes from the W.S. dialog have been sourced.

?Think women still to strive with men,

To sin and never for to saint? line 41 verse 8

And ?Her feeble force will yield at length? line 21 verse 4.

The fact that W.S. does not believe Avisa to be a chaste or moral woman is in keeping with the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets who is ?slandered with a bastard's shame ? or in other words the mother of illegitimate children this is a sin that we know Penelope Rich was guilty of . Penelope was widely believed to have had a number of Charles Blount's children while still married to Robert Rich.

It is clear from reading Shakespeare's sonnets that he has fallen for the leading lady of the Essex circle I believe that he was introduced to Penelope Rich through Henry Wriothesley.

But how far did their relationship go ? The poem Willobie His Avisa tells us that he was entirely unsuccessful with her but was extremely infatuated this might be true .Shakespeare's own sonnets are full of sexual frustration towards the Dark Lady perhaps they were simply platonic friends but Shakespeare may have been totally smitten with her.

Shakespeare would have known that Penelope was the personal muse of Philip Sidney , even a casual reading of Shakespeare's sonnets reveals that he was heavily influenced by Philip Sidney often taking themes and full verses directly from Sidney's Astrophil and Stellasequence.

Almost all of the poets of the Elizabethan era were captivated by Penelope Rich

and there are many reasons why Shakespeare would have found her particularly attractive.

Penelope Rich was a famous aristocrat and as such was well above Shakespeare's social standing but she was possibly not entirely out of his reach. Aristocrats did mingle with commoners who had exceptional talents, Penelope was also one of the most rebellious women of Elizabethan England , was extremely independent for her time and effectively did what ever she liked often completely ignoring the social and religious norms of her time.

She naturally gravitated towards writers, poets , artists , musicians and linguists and formed close personal friendships with representatives of all of these groups. The possibility of a close friendship or even a relationship between Shakespeare and Penelope Rich is not an impossibility. We need to remember that the libel tells us that Avisa is a woman who will entertain equally suitors from both a high and low degree the translation in Ironia is that Penelope is a woman who has affairs with both Aristocrats and commoners.

I think  Shakespeare  had a brief relationship with Penelope Rich and that it was not recorded in a formal sense but that it was recorded poetically in contemporary libels like Willobie His Avisa and also in Shakespeare's own writings and these are records that we can still access today.

After the affair Shakespeare wrote about Penelope Rich in both his sonnets and in some of his plays.


Attached to Shakespeare's sonnets is the long and baffling poem A Lovers Complaint my interpretation of this poem is that it is a reverential poem dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney.

Shakespeare on realizing that he will never have Penelope Rich pays Sidney the ultimate compliment and returns his beloved Dark Lady to him . The poem is set in Arcadia and a reverend father is present I believe he will perform the marriage of the older Stella and Philip Sidney ( who in this poem appears in the pastoral disguise of Pamphilus one of his characters from his Arcadia texts).

In doing this Shakespeare is effectively writing the final chapter of the Astrophil and Stella sequence and is giving both characters the happy endings that eluded them in real life. It is a magnanimous gesture .

A Lovers complaint is Shakespeare's most emotional poem and I do not rule out the possibility that it was written after Penelope Rich's death in 1607 and may represent Shakespeare's final farewell to her.

The sonnets tell us that Shakespeare fell in love with the Dark Lady  then the Fair Youth ,to the dismay of Shakespeare initiated a relationship with the Dark Lady  this resulted in a quarrel that was patched up and the two remained friends.

The poem Willobie His Avisa shows W.S. and H.W. to still be friends after W.S has finished his courting of Avisa.The events of Willobie His Avisa are echoing those described in Shakespeare's sonnets and our earlier prediction that Avisa would be involved first with W.S. and then with H.W. who would be a younger man has been  confirmed.

Interestingly W.S. and H.W. are shown to visit Avisa's house together . The sonnets do describe long trips on horse back to and from the Dark Lady also the fact that they are together seems to confirm my belief that it was Wriothesley who introduced Shakespeare to Penelope Rich.

Does W.S have Syphilis ?

In his insightful paper  Shakespeare's Chancre . Did the bard have Syphilis ?  Dr John Ross makes the following observation concerning Willobie His Avisa.

In this passage, the passion of ?H.W.? for the virtuous Avisa is described in vocabulary evocative of venereal disease:

H.W. being suddenly infected with the contagion of a fantastical fit...at length not able any longer to endure the burning heat of so fervent a humor, betrayed the secrecy of his disease unto his familiar friend W.S. who not long before had tried the courtesy of like passion, and was now recovered of the like infection...he determined to see whether it would sort to a happier end for this new actor, then it did for the old player. But at length this Comedy was liken to have grown to a Tragedy, by the weak and feeble estate H.W. was brought into. [7, p. 177]

The pointed references to a ?new actor,? an ?old player,? ?Comedy,? and ?Tragedy,? as well as a subsequent doggerel parody of Shakespeare strongly suggest that the ?old player? is William Shakespeare. ?H.W.? may be Henry Wriothesley, the future Earl of Southampton, a patron of Shakespeare and a leading candidate for the ?lovely youth? of the sonnets. The peculiar word choices??contagion?, ?disease?, ?burning?, and ?infection??suggest that Wriothesley and Shakespeare were experiencing venereal disease, rather than the pangs of unrequited love.

I completely  agree with this interpretation . Willobie His Avisa was written in the middle of a severe outbreak of Syphilis. Elizabethan  readers absolutely would have understood what the passage is insinuating . In his sonnets Shakespeare is revealing that he is suffering from the disease and even describes the grim treatments of scalding baths and Mercury vapor that was available at the time.

The libel is showing  biting irony  in depicting a Syphilitic  Actor ( Mr W.S)  who thinks he is qualified to give the young H.W. advice on love. If W.S. is Shakespeare then Willobie His Avisa is dating his illness to 1593-  1594 - the years that Shakespeare was associated with Henry Wriothesley. .

43 : Is W.S's first name Will ?.

The final passage of Canto XL1111( Which describes W.S. scheme to derail H.W. ) states ? The sundry changes of affections and temptations which Will set loose from Reason can devise?.

We notice that the word Will starts with a capital and if we consider that W.S. has devised a plan that does set H.W. lose from reason then we need to be suspicious that Will in this passage may represent a pun that is intimating that W.S.'s first name is Will. William Shakespeare's nick name was known to be Will. We see this pattern again in the H.W. dialog in Canto XL1X verse 2 H.W. complains to Avisa that he has been led to despair by her aggressively courting him and he states

? You are the cheftaine that have layd

This heavy siege to strengthlesse fort

And fancy that my will betrayed

Hath lent despaire his strongest port?.

The line fancy that my will betrayed looks like a pun on the name Will and is linking him again to W.S.'s betrayal of H.W.

In the next section we discover that H.W's first name is Harry . In Elizabethan times Harry was a name that was interchangeable with Henry.

If this is correct then the the two protagonists are Will and Henry.

We must also admit that Shakespeare had only in may of 1594 released his Rape of Lucrece which was dedicated in very friendly terms to Henry Wriothsley and that in 1593 Shakespeare had again written and dedicated to Henry Wriothesley his Venus and Adonis this had been a best seller and even by 1594 had already undergone three new printings.

All Elizabethan readers seeing a young man with the initials H.W. who has an older friend who has initials W.S. who is an actor and a poet would instantly identify these two as being Henry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare.

We are now about to start the H.W. dialog this is clearly the climax of the entire libel and before we even start to read this libel we can make two significant predictions. If my theory that Willobie His Avisa is a libel that has been written by a jealous and competing poet who wants to personally dissuade H.W. from entering into a relationship with Penelope Rich and also wants to discredit William Shakespeare then this full dialog should be an unmitigated misogynistic attack on Avisa with some sideswipes at W.S. thrown in.

In other words the libel will return to the structure of a medieval satire and it will finish with a device that in the medieval satires was known as a Dissuasio or a conclusive and decisive argument against embarking on a particular course of action.

The second prediction that we can make is that we should be able to identify H.W as being Henry Wriothesley and date the dialog to the year 1594.

We shall now read the final H.W. dialog and see if we are correct. We need to pay close attention to this dialog because  the libel writer is going to reveal his true agenda within this dialog.

44: The sixth suitor (H.W.)


The H.W. dialogue comprises almost half the book so we can be certain that it is within this dialogue that the author is trying to convey his real argument.

The sixth suitor is introduced as H.W. he is depicted in a way that is different to all the other suitors in the sense that he is shown to suffer excruciating pain because of his suit with Avisa . He is shown as being a vulnerable young man who is the victim of bad advice from W.S. rather than being a particularly bad person himself.

This is also indicating that he wouldn't even have been a suitor of Avisa if it hadn't been for W.S.

This immediately raises our suspicion that the author himself has some type of sympathy and possibly affection towards this suitor.

The description of this suitor's narrative is the longest for any suitor and is the most contemporary . The introduction tells us that the author literally spells his own name in the H.W. dialog, with this statement the author author is implying that H.W. is Henry Willobie . The introduction tells us that Henry Willobie has disappeared recently and the introduction is dated October 1594 . The H.W. dialog also finishes with H.W. completely disappearing and the author not knowing his whereabouts.

This is the author's way of indicating to us that H.W. is the most recent suitor and that the events of the H.W dialog date to the same year of publication of Willobie his Avisa 1594 . The libel Willobie His Avisa was released to the stationers register in September 1594 but intriguingly Dorrell post dates his signature to October 1594 by doing this Dorrel must be implying that the events of the H.W dialog are ongoing at the time of the book's publication.

The second portion of our prediction ( That the H.W. dialog can be dated to 1594) is immediately confirmed.

The H.W. dialog is the climax of the full book and is the business end of the libel. H.W. is described as an Italo-Hispanalensis. This is not the first time that a suitor has been introduced as a dual nationality , the suitor D.H is described as an Anglo Germanus.

Our task now is to identify  H.W. and that shouldn't be difficult .

The H.W. dialog is split into two portions and both have sharply contrasting tenures , the first portion is presented in a mildly comedic fashion the second portion is portrayed as a dark tragedy. We remember that this is the sequence that H.W's scheming friend W.S. was trying to achieve -a comedy that would morph into a tragedy.

The first part of H.W. dialog starts under the name of Henerico Willobego so we can be certain that the text of the H.W. dialog is referring to the Italian H.W. It is a comedy.

This H.W. displays all the Italian traits of a lover . He idolizes Avisa writes poems and letters to her he kisses the grass that she walks on and the seat that she sits on. This H.W. is extraordinarily naive and clearly has no idea at all as how to woo a woman.

He tells Avisa that his love for her is real love and not lust and to ?prove this? he makes love with a prostitute then tells Avisa that his feelings of real love for her still remain after doing this immoral deed !!!

Despite his inexperience with women H.W. is clearly very well educated and has traveled internationally to France and Flanders .

He is shown as being an emotional young man who is easily influenced by others namely W.S. who do not have his own best interests at heart.

This young man goes by the name of Harry and also has a close association with W.S. ( A suitor who we have already identified as representing William Shakespeare).

He is a stubborn young man and makes a number of military quotes that seem to indicate that he might have some military aspirations. He reveals that he has been to France and Flanders and also Spain . In her dialog Avisa reveals that he has been to schools ( the plural is noted) this is an indication that he has had a higher education.

H.W. is described as being idle but despite being idle he appears to own his own home, and appears in Canto L11 to have given Avisa gold gifts. In Canto L1111 he reveals to Avisa that he has money and states ?My goods and life I will spend to support you?.

H.W. must have had a university level education because he is fluent in both Italian and Latin .

He is clearly a very literary minded young man and he takes Italian and Latin quotes From Edmund Spencer's The Shepherd's calendar . He also shows familiarity with John Florio' s works and takes a number of Italian quotes from these books.

He makes quotes that invoke Greek and Roman myths and is an eloquent writer himself he is also a highly articulate speaker and describes himself as a lover of music and mirth.

H.W. despite his traveling ,education and wealth does not appear to be particularly interested in women and reveals to Avisa that until he met her he had met thousands of women but was not interested in any of them. He also states that he will refuse to marry until Avisa agrees to marry him.

It is very clear that this person is Henry Wriothsley. Henry Wriothsley knew William Shakespeare and was nine years Shakespeare's junior. He was a wealthy Aristocrat who did not work , he was fully fluent in Italian highly educated in the classics understood Latin and was a great lover of literature and drama.

He was a very accomplished writer and a highly articulate person. He was a hedonist given to mirth and mayhem. He possessed a law degree and was university educated to Masters level. He was very familiar with John Florio because John Florio was in 1594 still his personal tutor and the character Harry is directly quoting Italian proverbs from a book that Henry Wriothesley would personally have learned from.

By age 17 he had already visited both France and possibly Flanders and had tried to join Robert Devereux's military campaign in France but Devereux sent him home.

Henry Wriothesley went by the nickname of Harry. The fact that H.W is known as Harry indicates that he is an Italian speaking Englishman  - entirely correct for Henry Wriothesley. W.S. describes H.W. as having a sharp nose and a wannie face this fits with known portraits which demonstrate a young man with chiselled feautures .

We are also told that H.W. has met a worthy woman who loved him but ?whose loving looks I did reject? . Given his previous indifference to women and his incessant crying throughout the dialog it is clear that H.W. is not particularly manly.

45: H.W. is refusing to marry.

After being rejected by Avisa H.W. states 

This pining plight I will endure

Till death do stop your husband's breath

To have me then if you will say

I will not marrie till that day.

This fits with Henry Wriothesley . He had been engaged since 1590 to Elizabeth de Vere but he did not love her and was prepared to pay the astronomical sum of 5000 pounds to avoid marrying her.

Wriothesley's refusal to marry was a crisis for the poets . Wriothesley's minder was the tough Lord Burleigh and he had  a vested interest in Wriothesley marrying his granddaughter Elizabeth de Vere.

The poets knew that if Wriothesley refused to marry Burleigh  could financially ruin him for breech of contract. None of the poets including Shakespeare would have wanted this . ( A clear procreation message is seen in Venus and Adonis)  If Wriothesley was bankrupted he could no longer be a patron to anyone.

I see Clapham's Narcissus  Venus and Adonis , Willobie His Avisa , and The Affectionate Shepherd as  all being  a reaction to  the impending Wriothesley marriage crisis. And that the authors of all of these works were vainly attempting to influence Wriothesley to get back on track.

Unfortunately Wriothesley was notoriously headstrong and stubborn. .

The possibility that Wriothesley was refusing to marry because he was enamored with Penelope Rich is new information to us.

Wriothesley was effeminate and a  bisexual. At the time of Willobie His Avisa's publication he was twenty and may still have been inexperienced with women at this point indeed Shakespeare's procreation sonnets seem to rather forcefully suggest that he start taking an interest in women.

H.W. is described as Italo -Hispanalensis and he gets more into character than any other suitor who is given a foreign trait . He can clearly speak Italian and has many Italian traits this may also be an insinuation by the author that H.W.'s similarities to all things Italian extends to an involvement with the Roman church. This was true for Wriothesley who was raised in the Catholic faith and remained a crypto- catholic.

H.W. states that he knows Avisa's husband and has a poor opinion of him . Wrothesley definitely knew Baron Rich and historical connections existed the fathers of Henry Wriothesley and Robert Rich. In addition Robert Rich was the husband of Penelope Rich and the brother in law of his close friend Robert Devereux.

46: Avisa's rejection of H.W.

 Avisa's rejection of H.W. is clearly a parody and rewriting of Stella's famous rejection of Astrophil  from Sidney's sonnet sequence.

In Sidney's work Stella rejects Astrophil because of the social disgrace that would be caused by a married woman being in adulterous relationship but despite this tells him that she loves him . Avisa does exactly the same thing She rejects H.W. and tells him that he only has lust and not love for him , but still states that she has love for him - a staggering confession for a "chaste woman " to be making.

Comically H.W. tries to" prove" that he has love and not lust for Avisa by telling Avisa that he has had a relationship with a prostitute but afterwards still felt pangs of love for Avisa .

Again this is a snide reference to Astrophil and Stella where Astrophil reveals that there are other beautiful women who could quench his lust but he only has love for Stella.

This ironic retelling of the famous rejection of the patriarch of the Essex circle ( Sir Philip Sidney) would in no way have been lost on another member of the Essex Circle H.W. ( Henry Wriothesley) .


Henry Wriothesley knew and was close friends with Penelope Rich, Robert Devereux , Charles Blount and was a patron of William Shakespeare. He would have known but probably was not close to Robert Rich .

All of these people were Essex circle members either directly or by default and all of them are being attacked in the libel Willobie His Avisa.

Henry Wriothesley was close with Penelope Rich and moved in her circle. He would ultimately name his first daughter after her and marry her cousin Elizabeth Vernon. He was a confidante to her and secretly married Elizabeth Vernon at Penelope's house ( Leez Priory).

The romantic linking of Henry Wriothesley to Penelope Rich is new information to us but is far from impossible. They certainly moved in the same circles and both were amongst the very most rebellious aristocrats in Elizabethan England., By 1593 Penelope was no longer having marital relations with Robert Rich and by 1594 her lover Charles Blount was one hundred miles away in Portsmouth . Penelope was emerging from an unhappy and probably violent relationship. I believe she participated in a number of transitional relationships before fixating on Charles Blount I believe these relationships occurred in 1594.

Penelope was definitely having some type of personal crisis in 1594 and it has emerged that she was part of a network that was involved in the illegal activity of offering shelter to a Catholic priest Father John Gerald. Gerald later testified that Penelope Rich was extremely troubled in 1594 and that she nearly converted to Catholicism in may of that year.

I wonder if this was ? The new faith recently torn? that Shakespeare is referring to as he bitterly accuses the Dark Lady in Sonnet 152.

We should also remember that in 1594 H.W. was twenty and Penelope was 30 and may well have been at the height of her very considerable beauty and was effectively single at that time.

That an older rebellious and married woman ( who just happened to be the most beautiful woman of her generation ) would finally ignite Wriothesley's interest in women is I think ,a distinct possibility because everyone who came into Penelope's circle ended up being infatuated with her

Avisa does indicate a number of times that she does like H.W. and calls him Good Harry and in Canto LX11 states

? If honest love could breed content

And frame a liking to your will

I would not stick to give consent

I like you so and love you still

But whilst lust leads your love awrie

Assure yourself I will denie?line 30 -36 verse 6

Avisa indicates that she does like H.W. and would accept him if he had true love and not lust for her.

This is of course an extraordinary admission for a ?chaste? married woman to be making.

An indirect hint is dropped during the H.W. dialogue that Avisa's real name is Penelope.

In his lament H.W. states that if he had Avisa's love he would not be afraid to sail the ocean , brave whirling blasts and chase the Scyllan hounds.


This is a reference to Homers Odyssey Scylla was a monster that lived in a rock on one side of a narrow channel of water Opposite Scylla was Charybdis , Charybdis was a whirlpool Scylla was a six headed monster that also had the bodies of six ferocious dogs attached to her . These two monsters attacked any passing ships and both make an appearance in Homer's Odyssey Ulysses must sail past both .

It is revealing that  H.W. is comparing himself to Ulysses In the H.W. dialogue the goal of H.W's voyage is Avisa's heart  this is like Ulysses whose ultimate destination was Penelope's heart,.

Despite his idolization of Avisa H.W. knows that Avisa is a woman with secrets and in Canto L1111 he tells her that he will not reveal her secrets he also knows that she is not what she appears to be and is only pretending to be a chaste woman and he states ?Let me be hanged if you be such as you pretend in outward shoe?.

The introduction states that in the H.W. dialog the author describes his own love. Most readers will interpret this as meaning that H.W. is describing his thwarted love for Avisa but I argue that H.W. is not the real author of this libel and that in the H.W. dialog it is the author of Willobie his Avisa who is describing his own love for H.W.

In the H.W. dialogue the author has described H.W. as being a foolish person but he is not depicted as being foolish in an undereducated sense H.W. is clearly highly educated and multi lingual but the author is chiding H.W. for being foolish for getting into a relationship with Avisa . The author is quite happy for  Queen Elizabeth to throw Penelope Rich into The Tower of London  for being an adulteress but  he DOES NOT want the same fate to befall H.W.

I have predicted that the libel Willobie His Avisahas been written by a poet who personally wants a relationship with H.W. and wants to warn H.W. against the dangers of entering into a relationship with Penelope Rich and also to unmask the truth about William Shakespeare. If this is the case then the full H.W. dialog is going to function as aDissuasio and so we can expect a thematic reversal in the plot and that the emphasis will now shift from explaining why particular suitors would be bad for Avisa and focus solely on the reasons why Avisa would be bad for H.W.

And this is exactly what we see.

The Dissuasio.

The H.W. dialog is the final and climatic dialog of the libel Willobie His Avisa and like the medieval satires that this libel has been based on it will function as the final dissuasio.

We need to remember that the author in the D.H. Dialogue has already revealed that Avisa is already engaged to  D.H.  So any attempt by H.W. to win Avisa are going to be doomed from the outset.

In this dialog Avisa will reveal more negative information about herself than she does to any other suitor.

Also H.W. is shown to suffer more than any other suitor because of Avisa's actions and this suffering is excruciatingly detailed.

Avisa seems to lead him on more than any other suitor but then cruelly laugh at his tears.

There are frequent references to blindness throughout the H.W. dialogue these are allusions to H.W's own blindness towards the true nature of Avisa and W.S. and are attempts by the author to make H.W. ?see the light.?

As we have seen earlier Avisa leads this suitor on first by telling him that she likes him and later actually stating that she loves him and would chose him if he changed her attitude but she soon starts to act out of character and the warnings start coming thick and fast.

In Canto XL1X H.W. states

Your face hath made such fierce assult

And battered and battered so my defencelesse hart

and it continues...

You are the chieftaine that have layed

This heavy siege to strengthlesse fort

And fancy that my will betrayed

This passage is doing two things it is informing us that it is Avisa who has been aggressively courting H.W. and not the other way around the passage is also taking a swipe at W.S. who was earlier shown to betray H.W.

A foot note now appears with a Biblical warning that states ? David being idle fell to strange lust?. A Latin quote follows from Quaeritur Aegistheus which translates to ? Keep safe from adulterous women?.

In Canto L Avisa gives H.W a sinister warning about herself

?Some seek and find what their fancy list

But after wish that they had missed? Canto L line 30 verse 5.

But much worse is to follow in the same Canto she states.

?Who loves to tread unknowne pathes,

Doth often wander from his way

Who longs to lay in bravest baths

Does wash by night and waste by day

Take heed betyme , beware the prize

Of wicked lust if you be wise.?

With this passage Avisa is clearly warning H.W. that the ?prize? for his wicked lust with Avisa will be a case of syphilis , bravest baths is a reference to the Elizabethan treatment of syphilis by immersion into scalding baths.

This is not the first time in this libel that the insinuation has been made that Avisa has syphilis, and in the W.S. dialog we are told that W.S has recently recovered from the ?infection? of an infatuation with Avisa and that now H.W. is afflicted with the same contagion.

This is an indication that Avisa has given both W.S. and H.W. syphilis many scholars believe that syphilis is a theme of Shakespeare's sonnets if W.S. has been given syphilis then the author is revealing to us an important clue he is stating that W.S's relationship with Avisa was more than just platonic.

At the beginning of the H.W. dialogue H.W. complains that he is ill and has lost weight  because of his lust for Avisa and he states

" I have the fever  ethicke right ".

The fever ethicke was an Elizabethan term meaning a raging fever with ague and bone aches why would an association with Avisa leave him with these particular symptoms ? high fever  aching joints and weight loss are all symptoms of syphilis. 

Another Latin quote follows ' In promptu causa est : Disidiosus erat this is from Ovid's Remidia Amores and translates Keep yourself safe from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.

We are now starting to see the full misogynistic rage of the author of Willobie His Avisa unfold but he doesn't stop here rather he continues to hurl abuse at Avisa.

Avisa continues to act out of character , she is very self depreciating and she herself now indicates that she is an unchaste woman.

?What cause have you to fancy me

That never yet had time to prove

What I have been or what I am

Where worthie love or rather shame ? ? Canto L11 line 21-24 verse 4

What is Avisa saying ? isn't she supposed to be a chaste woman? In the same Canto she tells H.W.

?Your fancy hath no power to fly

The luring bait of flattering grace

The fish that leaps and never lookes

Finds death unawares in secret hookes ?Canto L11 verse 1 line 3-6.

With these lines Avisa is admitting that with her flattering grace she is aggressively courting H.W. and also revealing that she is not what she seems and that there is mortal danger involved in falling in love with a seductress like herself.

An Italian proverb now follows ? Fuggi quel placer presente che ti da dolor? translation ? Flee the pleasure that gives you a future pain?.

Avisa reiterates this proverb and grimly warns H.W.

? Fly present pleasure that doth bring insuing

pain grief and death? Canto LV1 line 31-33.

What these lines are insinuating is that despite the H.W. dialog on the surface showing Avisa rejecting H.W. in actuality the opposite is occurring and that the author is revealing that a relationship between H.W. and Avisa is ongoing and is occurring at the time of the writing of the libel Willobie His Avisa.

Now the author of Willobie his Avisa tries a different angle of attack he tries to threaten H.W. with the fear of eternal damnation for his transgressions with Avisa. Avisa specifically tells H.W.

?What beastly folly raging lust

What beastly blindness fancy breeds

As though the lord has not accursed

With vengence due the sinfull deeds

Though vaine- led youth with pleasure swell

Yet marke these words that I shall tell

Who so with flithy pleasue burnes

His sinful flesh with firey flakes

Must be consumed whose soule returns

To endless pain in burning lakes? Canto LV111

These are clearly the authors own words and he is simply speaking through Avisa. And Avisa now gives H.W. a quote of Biblical proportions.

?Beware lest your hart be tryde

to fond affects by wanton sights

Their wandering eyes and wanton lookes

Catch fools as fish with pointed hookes

Their lips with oyle and honey flow

Their tounges are fraught with flattering guile

Amidst these joyes great sorrow grow

Then flee this dead and dreadful love? Canto LV111 line 21-27 verse 4.

After exhausting this religious sermon the author ofWillobie His Avisa tries a new angle of attack he now attempts to appeal to Wriothesley's emotional and literary side he has the H.W. character return to his home and start to write poetry to Avisa . I believe that this now represents the second portion of the H.W. dialog H.W.'s poetry is forlorn and grief stricken and there are multiple references to death and dying and a shifting of the blame for this onto Avisa.

We see now that the dialog has left its comedic stage and has firmly entered its tragic stage. This full phase of the book has been written with real passion and this reveals to us that the author of Willobie His Avisa is himself a very passionate and emotional person.

There are some poetical verses that have been very well written and the author is revealing himself as a very capable poet consider Canto LXV111 verse 5 for example.

? I saw your gardens passing fine

With pleasant powers lately decked

With Couslops and with Eglentine,

When woefull Woodbyne lyes reject

Yet in these weeds and briars meet,

Although they seem to smell so sweet

The dainty Daysy bravely springs,

And cheefest honour seems to get,

I envy not such friendly things

But blesse the hand that these have set

Yet let the Hysope have his place

That does deserve a special grace?.

This poetic description of seeing Avisa's beautiful gardens but finding weeds within it has been skillfully written and is not the standard style of a gutter level libel rather it is the work of an accomplished poet.

48: H.W. dialog comparison with Shakespeare's Lucrece.

Earlier I had pointed out that Willobie his Avisa represents a parody of Shakespeare's Lucrece and demonstrated that Avisa was actually described in exactly  the same terms i.e. a predatory bird and a gorged hawke  that the unchaste villan Tarquin was.

Another interesting point of comparison is that Lucrece and H.W. are both described in very similar ways .

Both are presented as rather naive but ultimately innocent victims and both ultimately die.

Lucrece is described as hunted prey , as a fish who feared no hooks, a mouse, a dove, and  a deer.

H.W. likens himself to all of these hunted animals . He writes Avisa a poem where he compares himself to a hunted mouse, a caught fish, and  a wounded deer .

Tarquin is described as a cruel lion but so is Avisa and H.W. states that that he lies prostrate in the Lions ( Avisa's) paws.

Lucrece is likened to an overrun fort H.W. forwards exactly the same imagery and tells Avisa that he surrenders his fort to her seige.

Both Lucrece and H.W. grieve in an identical manner. Both refuse food and become a shadow of their former selves. Both end up hating the things that they formerly loved.

Even the imagery that Lucrece and H.W. invoke to express their grief  is identical Lucrece bemoans

 " Ah me the bark peeled from the lofty pine his leaves will wither and his sap decay so must my soul her bark being peeled away."

Compare this to H.W. who states

 Canto LXX

Hope and health will both be gone

When branch from inward rhind has fled

The bark doth wish the body dead. 

Ultimately both  Lucrece and H.W. have been betrayed by people they thought that they could trust and both end up wanting to withdraw from public life and live in shadows.And ultimately both kill themselves.

The fact that H.W. and Lucrece suffer a very similar fate is a strong indicator that Willobie His Avisa is conduct literature that is directed to the same person that The Rape of Lucrece was dedicated to and that person is the young H.W.- Henry Wriothesley..

H.W. continues to be wracked with angst and the passage becomes increasingly bleak . Avisa refuses to answer any of his anguished cries and H.W. is clearly becoming severely depressed .

Towards the end of the dialogue H.W. starts to see the error of his ways and in canto LXV1 laments

I wretch too long have lent

My wandering eyes to gaze on thee

I have both time and travel spent

In vain in vaine and now I see

They do but fruitless pain procure

To haggard kytes that cast the lure.

Here H.W. laments that it has brought him nothing but pain in trying to court Avisa, like the other suitors he refers to her as a haggard kyte ( hawk)  this we know is a metaphor for an inconstant woman.

It is finally at this point that H.W. has a cathartic moment and he is finally convinced by the dissuasio and he leaves Avisa his final words are

Now fare thou well , whose welfare brings

Such loathsome fear , and ill to me

Yet here thy friend this farewell sings.

Though heavy word a farewell be.

Against all hope , if I hope still

Blame but abundance of good will.

Grande Amore Grande Dolore

Inopem me copia fecit Canto LXX1.

These lines tell us that H.W. has finally realized the truth about Avisa/Penelope and realizes that she is destroying him His final quote is in Italian then Latin The first translation is Great love Great sorrow. The second is far more pointed Inopem me copia fecit translates to My riches make me poor.

H.W. now also sees the truth about W.S. and he again lays the blame of his predicament on spending too much time with W.S. He states this in his words ?Blame but abundance of ?good Will?.

But his moment of clarity arrives too late and Avisa finally makes a mocking and haughty reply stating that she will never love him and signs her final correspondence ? Always the same Avisa? or in ironia ?Inconstant Penelope?.

H.W. is ?stricken dead ?by this reply and the author admits that he no longer knows of H.W's whereabouts or even if he is still alive. The text ends here and a mocking author's conclusion follows which cynically promises to reveal more about Avisa in the future .

? If this be liked then can I say

Ye may see more another day?. The authors conclusion final line.

We have finally reached the end of this epic dissuasio and there can be no doubt whatsoever that the entire H.W. dialog has been nothing but a piece of conduct literature that has been personally directed by the author to Henry Wriothesley. It is telling him to stop his relationship with William Shakespeare and the Dark Lady (Penelope Rich) and to see these two people for the negative influences that he believes them to be.

49 :Inopem me copia fecit.

We also recognise that Inopem me copia fecit has another important allusion, it is a quotation that comes directly from Ovid's Narcissus .

The author is dropping a real hint here that H.W. needs to be compared to Narcissus and in the process is naming H.W.

The ONLY young Elizabethan aristocrat who had the initials H.W. and who was openly compared to Narcissus was HENRY WRIOTHESLEY.

Shakespeare in his sonnets openly compares the Fair Youth to Narcissus.

George Clapham  (The secretary to William Cecil - Henry Wriothesley's minder ) in 1592 dedicated to Henry Wriothesley  a long poem this was thinly disguised conduct literature and its central character Narcissus was clearly intended to be Henry Wriothesley .

In the dedication to The Fair Youth in the sonnets Shakespeare mirror reverses Henry Wriothesley's initials this is an allusion to The Myth of Narcissus being associated with the Young Henry Wriothesley and in the process is revealing who the sonnets have been dedicated to.

.We must take a moment to let the full message of this libel sink in and allow ourselves to be amazed at the level of hatred and perverse complexity of this extremely venomous libel.

In this dialog the author of Willobie His Avisa is displaying his passionate and emotional concern for Henry Wriothesley and is sending the message to Wriothesley that he is the only person that Wriothesley can trust and the frequent references to H.W's blindness are referring to H.W's inability to see the truth about Penelope Rich and William Shakespeare but are also a lament that Henry Wriothesley is blind to the author's own love for him.

It is likely that the author of Willobie His Avisa is a young very emotional and misogynistic poet who is actually in love with Henry Wriothesley and wishes to have an exclusive relationship with Henry Wriothesley. This person is a gifted writer who hates Penelope Rich and is very jealous of William Shakespeare. This writer admires and imitates a number of authors including George Gascoigne.

It is this motivating factor that has led him to write the full book there is one and only one writer in all of Elizabethan England who can fulfill all of these criteria .

But before we can look at authorship there is one last person who we need to look at.

 50 : Henry Willobie.


Henry Willobie is historically a very difficult person to trace and very little is known about his life.

It is known that Henry Willobie from West Knoyle Wiltshire entered St Johns college Oxford in December 1591 at age 16 he was the second son of a Wiltshire gentleman of the same name.

Willobie was from a wealthy family.

He was known to have a younger brother named Thomas Willobie who is specifically mentioned in the 1596 edition of Willobie his Avisa so we can be certain that the Henry Willobie from West Knoyle is the same Henry Willobie who is being alluded to in the libel Willobie His Avisa.

It is observed that Henry Willobie in the libel has been given no disguise whatsoever and his name appears on every page of the original 1594 edition this is in stark contrast to all the other suitors.

I do not believe that Henry Willobie is the real author of this libel. Henry Willobie was an Oxford scholar and a commoner it is inconceivable that he would willingly affix his name onto this type of libel. Libel writers almost never placed their real names onto their libels.

It is even more inconceivable that Henry Willobie would go on aggressively publishing the book even after it has officially been deemed to be libelous and banned.

Queen Elizabeth was known to be very sensitive towards any work that she thought was depicting her in a negative light.

The libel Willobie His Avisa in its non-decoded form shows a chaste woman who is being courted by a string of multinational suitors from France, Spain , Italy , Germany and England. The ?chaste? Avisa also uses the queens personal motto four times.

All Elizabethan readers and the Queen her self would immediately think that this libel was referring to her.

Given the way that these suitors speak to Avisa for example calling her a common whore and they way that these suitors draw up contracts for her as if she is a prostitute meant that this libel had every potential to dangerously raise the Queen's ire .

The act of libeling the Queen was a crime that was punishable by death yet Hadrian Dorell Henry Willobie's ? friend ? places Henry Willobie's name on the title page of the libel.

We already understand this libel and know that it is definitely not about Queen Elizabeth but the libel has been specifically engineered to make it appear that it is referring to the Queen.

This is yet another device in action, the author is using this as an attention seeking device he knows that any libel that is attacking the Queen will gain overnight notoriety and attract a huge audience who are looking for scandal and sensation. The author wants to attract as many readers as he can because he knows that they will pour over the work and start to decode it and also that they will instantly recognize some figures in the book very notably Henry Wriothesly and William Shakespeare and they will see and read of the betrayal of H.W. by W.S. we now see that the libel is a severe attack on William Shakespeare's emerging fame and popularity and is an attempt to discredit him both personally and professionally and turn him into a universally disliked figure. When we appreciate that the libel Willobie His Avisa was second in popularity only to Shakespeare'sVenus and Adonis we realize how very public the shaming of Shakespeare really was.

We now recall Shakespeare's own words in his sonnets that he has been publicly shamed and is generally disliked we now know exactly what he is talking about.

We must also remember that with the publication of this libel Shakespeare would have seen his patron Henry Wriothesley his mistress Penelope Rich and the full Essex circle be publicly libeled . Shakespeare's sense of guilt could be severe and ongoing because this libel was republished five times in his lifetime.

It is entirely clear that the author of Willobie His Avisa was pathologically jealous of William Shakespeare and the publication of Willobie his Avisa was an attempt to end his career.

The libel is making a very real effort to distance Henry Willobie from the libel it states that he is overseas in either the army or navy and that Hadrian Dorrell does not know his whereabouts , the 1594 edition states at the end of the book that H.W. was stricken dead this is an insinuation that he might be dead.

 Henry Willobie was not in the military in 1594 .

In  1594-1595 a Henry Willoughby did graduate with a B.A from Exeter College in Oxford this is very likely the same Henry Willobie but it is noticed that this is not the same college that he originally enrolled in, it is also noted that Henry Willobie enrolled at Oxford under the name Willobie but now appears to be going under the alternative spelling of Willoughby this might well be an attempt to distance himself from the libel.

In 1595 in a marginal note of William Covell'sPolymanteia mention is made of a Willobie as ?one of the Oxford men able to sing sweetly?.

In this context Willobie was grouped with other poets from Oxford university it is not an indication that Covell knew him personally but may well have been familiar with his work. ( Sing in this context means to write verse).

In 1595 Henry Willoughby ( still using this version of his surname ) enrolled in Lincoln's Inn. In London.

This is where his educational trail runs cold and I have not been able to determine whether or not he graduated from this institution.

In the 1611 edition of Willobie His Avisa Dorrell states that both Henry Willobie and his brother Thomas have recently gone to god.

The 1611 edition gave the date of Henry Willobie and his brother as being 30th June 1569 .

Most researchers think that this is a misprint and give the date of Henry Willobies death as being 1596.

The Shakespearean Scholar Leslie Hotson did not agree with this and provided a document that proved that Henry Willobie was still alive in 1597 the Document read 

On August 04 1597 Henry Willobie of Knowell Wiltshire esquire and his SON Henry Willobie a bond of two thousand pounds to William Pit of St Stephans Westminster Gentleman.

The date of death that Hotson forwarded for Henry Willobie was 1599 this is because on June 4th 1599 on order of the Hall of The Stationers register Willobie His Avisa was considered scurrilous and objectionable and was to be withdrawn from circulation and burned.

However the researchers who forward the idea that Henry Willobie died young seem to be ignoring the possibility that the date of death that Dorrell had forwarded as being  1569 may not have been an error.


If we read the 1596 version of Willobie His Avisa we notice that Hadrian Dorell is significantly changing his story he is now suggesting that the full work Willobie His Avisa is fictional, that It does not  refer to any living person and that it was written over thirty five years ago and that all of the preceding points shall be proved.

I quote

This poetical fiction was penned by the author at least for five and thirtie years since ( as it will be proved) and lay in waste papers in his study , as many other prettie things of his devising , and so might have continued still ( as his Sussana doth yet).

It is clear  that what Dorrell is attempting to do here is make it seem as if Henry Willobie is not a young university student but rather an older poet who had also penned The Ballard of Constant Susanna .

The Ballard of Constant Susanna was an anonymous poem that celebrated female chastity it was published in 1562 by Thomas Colwell but its real author has never been identified.

In the 1596 edition of Willobie His Avisa Dorell states that both Henry Willobie and His Brother Thomas Willobie have recently gone to God  and the date given of their demise is 1569.

It is clear that Hadrian Dorell is attempting to extricate both Henery Willobie and his family from the ongoing shame and potential danger of being associated with a libel that had been officially banned.

The Shakespearean Scholar Arthur Archieston forwarded Mathew Roydon as the author of Willobie his Avisa and The Ballard Of Constant Sussana but Archieston seemed not to be aware that The Ballard of Constant Sussana predated the birth of Mathew Roydon also that Roydon finished his stint at Oxford a full eleven years before Henry Willobie matriculated  .

On April 5th 1605 John Hartgill married Margaret the sister of Henry Willougby of West Knoyle. This is definitely Henry Willobie - John Hartgill  was a classmate of Henry Willobie at St Johns college  Oxford.

This is the latest historical date that I have been able to find for Henry Willobie.  

 51: What is Henry Willobie's

relationship to the book ?

In many ways this is THE most difficult question of all .However some observations can be made. Hadrian Dorrell wanted anonymity for himself but didn't want it for  Henry Willobie and The Willobie Family . The reason must be that Dorrell is trying to blame the full libel on The Willobie Family. This suggests  that the targets of the libel knew who the Willobie Family were.

Hadrian Dorrell clearly has had some type of contact with The Willobie Family because he correctly states that Henry Willobie was an Oxford Student and also correctly  states that Willobie has a brother called Thomas.

Dorrell clearly states that he has published the book without Willobies knowledge or consent and also seems a little nervous about how Willobie will react to having his name placed on the libel.

Dorrell is forwarding Henry Willobie as the author but most scholars are deeply skeptical of this I  on the other hand do not  rule out the possibility that Willobie like Barnfield may have been a minor poet who was attatched to the fringes of a literary circle . ( See the section  Barnfields coterie for further discussion on this subject)  .

If the book was written by Hadrian Dorrell to Henry Willobie  why would Hadrian Dorrell have gone to so much trouble to have written such a veiled and mysterious book particularly if Henry Willobie was a close friend of his ?

It is hard to believe that Henry Willobie was the author of this book because in many ways the book is an attack  on  H.W.'s character.

My belief is that The real author of this book is Hadrian Dorrell and that Henry Willobie is a person known to Hadrian Dorrell and that Hadrian Dorrell has named the book after his friend Henry Willobie  (we notice that on the title page Henry Willobie does not appear as the author).

The real function of the book is to serve as a warning to H.W. (Henry Wriothesley) about Avisa ( Penelope Rich ) and his friend W.S. ( William Shakespeare) it is a fortunate coincidence that Henry Willobie has the same set of initials as Henry Wriothesley . ( H.W.)

This now gives the author ( Hadrian Dorrell the freedom to write a full libel to Henry Wriothesley but thinly disguise Henry Wriothesley as Henry Willobie.

If this is the case then  every time the  author is mentioning H.W. or Henry Willobie  he is actually referring to Henry Wriothesley.

There is a symmetry here because  every time the author writes the name Avisa he is actually referring to Penelope Rich.

This in effect gives the libel writers an escape clause , if a major inquiry followed the publication of this libel and the real author was tracked down he would be able to argue that he had simply written the book about the failed romance of a fellow Oxford student ( Henry Willobie ) and that it had nothing to do with any aristocratic circle.

51a :The Old College Try...

The word try appears throughout the libel  and in conjunction with all the suitors .

A typical example is given here

And there she dwells in publique eyeShut up from none that list to see ; She answeres all that list to try. Both high and low of each degree: But few that come, but feele her dart, And try her well ere they depart.

The word Try is clearly  used here as a  double entendre  - all the suitors try Avisa .

In Canto 1 the author ( who is supposed to be Henry Willobie) describes Avisa and  makes the following statement

The birde that resembles right The Turtles faith in constant love, The faith that first her promise phght ; No change, nor chance could once remove: This have I tri'd ; This dare I trust, And sing the truth, I will, I must.This statement is revealing that Willobie is a suitor who has "tried " Avisa and now is going to reveal the truth about her chastity.We are now clear that Henry Willobie is beingforwarded both as the author and as a suitor of AvisaThis is interesting because I think that he is neither.I think H.W. is intended to be Henry WriothesleyAnd not Henry Willobie and the full H.W. dialogueis supposed to represent the Shakespearean lovetriangle from the perspective of The Fair Youth. 

 52: What all the suitors have in common.

All the suitors think that Avisa is an unchaste woman.

The suitors, the author ( and Avisa herself)  are all dropping hints that Avisa's real name is PENELOPE.

53: Robert Greenes influence on Willobie His Avisa.

A recent  observation  is that the author of Willobie His Avisa   was a great admirer of Robert Greene. Multiple quotes appear throughout the libel that come from a number of Robert Greene's works these quotes in many cases are almost ad verbatim.

This observation is important because it outright disproves Hadrian Dorrell who attempts to suggest that the libel dates to 1569 and not 1596. This is certainly incorrect as the earliest of Greenes works date to 1583. .

54: Authorship.

Barnfields Coterie

In 1595 William Covell in his Polyhymnia described a group of Oxford poets 

Oxford thou hast many  Breton Percie Willobie Fraunce Lodge Master Davis of Lincoln Inn Drayton and they are able to sing sweetly when it pleases thee.   There are problems with this list Fraunce was at Cambridge at the same time as Covell and never attended Oxford . Drayton is not known to have attended any university and Plat here is attending Lincoln Inn  so what Covell must be describing is a poetic circle that existed in the Inns of court that had an Oxford contingent.The list is not as haphazard as it seems. Fraunce Breton and Drayton were all members of the Wilton Circle and would definitely   have known each other. Drayton is known to have been a close friend with Thomas Lodge and in The Affectionate Shepherd and Cynthia Barnfield reveals he is a close friend of Michael Drayton.

It is most interesting that Abraham Fraunce is placed in this group because Fraunce is known to have been a dominant influence on Barnfield. Modern research suggests Fraunce died in 1593. In The Affectionate Shepherd Barnfield mourns the death of a scholar poet Amyntas who he loved. I am convinced Barnfield's Amyntas was Abraham Fraunce,

What is also interesting is the presence of Nicholas Breton  in this group. Breton was known (like the authoe of Willobie His Avisa) to emulate George Gascoignes writing style and  Breton is known ro have written  satirical pamphlets.

A  group effort involving Niicholas Breton Henry Willobie and Richard Barnfield  in writing the Libel Willobie His Avisa is a possibility I take seriously.

What is even more  fascinating with this list is that Henry Willobie is present . So this group potentially does link Richard  Barnfield and Henry Willobie. I am completely certain the author / authors of  Willobie His Avisa come from this literary coterie.

From our earlier observations we can already form quite a profile of the author of Willobie His Avisa.

We are certain that he has a university level education and that he is very schooled in the classics. Willobie His Avisa is a highly sophisticated  libel this reveals that the author was a particularly intelligent person .

This author uses pen names and seems to go by a number of different aliases.

Despite his very impressive intellect during the H.W. dialog this author reveals himself to be a highly emotional writer who tends to become fixated on a particular subject and also appears to develop obsessive emotional attachments to people ? He either loves them intensely or hates them passionately and there is no middle ground . He clearly loves and is concerned about H.W. and clearly hates and cannot stand either William Shakespeare or Penelope Rich.

This writer has ties to Oxford University and states that he knows personally and is a close friend of Henry Willobie the author also seems to be aware of all the lurid examples of literature from antiquity and as well as the Bible this suggests to me along with his clear emotional immaturity that the author is a young person albeit a young person with an extraordinarily mature writing style. If the writer is friends with Henry Willobie then he will be late teens to early twenties in age. ( Henry Willobie was 19) in 1594.

The author reveals that his favorite authors are Philip Sidney, Edmund Spencer, and he takes many quotes from Michael Drayton. This authors least favorite writer is William Shakespeare.

This author reveals himself as being scornful to all women and believes that no chaste women exist any longer .He particularly hates any unchaste woman who uses her physical beauty to manipulate men.

The woman that he hates most of all is Penelope Rich because she is the living embodiment of an unchaste and beautiful woman who can use her beauty and intellect to manipulate men.

This author is obsessed with Henry Wriothesley and will go to any length including making grandiose public statements to prove this.

Because of his powerful misogynistic traits and his close friendships with men and his clear obsession with Henry Wriothesley ( a known bisexual) I profile the author as being a homosexual.

Despite being a homosexual ( which was illegal at the time) this author appears to have strongly puritanical religious beliefs which makes me think that he was brought up in a strict and puritanical family.

With his black and white thinking this author will have a natural proclivity towards exaggeration .

This author is a very didactic writer who will not hesitate to use exempla that are both classical and contemporary to support his argument.

As well as being highly intellectual this writer is a definite poet we need to remember that there was no need to make the libel Willobie His Avisa rhyme many of the libels of the time didn't rhyme but throughout the author wants to showcase his own considerable poetic ability and has doggedly stuck to the challenging rhyming hexameter format. The layout of the libel is clearly emulating the layout of the works of an established poet and comes complete with commendatory verse and epistles.

This writer shows flashes of very real poetic ability and can create very vivid imagery through his poetry. Despite his obvious poetic ability the standard of his work is quite uneven and there are a number of dull verses throughout the work. The fact that the writer is clearly striving to be recognized as a great poet is an indication that he is in real life a minor poet.

As well as disliking women ( considering most as being little better than whores) this poet looks down on uneducated people and also looks down on military people ( calling them ruffians and roysterers ) this again is an indication that he is not a particularly manly person himself.

The author is very familiar with the works of both Robert Greene and George Gascoigne.

The author is clearly interested in establishing himself as being a great poet but and clearly wants fame but he is actually scornful of very wealthy people and seems to be an advocate for a contented and pastoral /Arcadian shepherd type of life and he makes this clear in this final long poem ? Contentment of Mind?.

Which in itself is a rather accomplished poem.

This author wants William Shakespeare out of the picture and for Queen Elizabeth to throw Penelope Rich into the Tower of London and charge her as an adulteress.

This author is a very skillful but emotional libel writer and he is particularly given to the genre of Ironia.

Given the level of personal animosity that this author clearly has for both William Shakespeare and Penelope Rich and his deep obsession with Henery Wriothesley and his propensity for libel writing this author is highly likely to write further libels that are going to be stating exactly the same themes.

There is one Elizabethan writer who fully fits this profile and that writer is Richard Barnfield.

Barnfield was an author who was known to use pen names he sometimes used the name Ignoto.

Barnfield was at Oxford University at the same time as Henry Willobie and was of a similar age and both were taking Arts degrees it is highly likely that Richard Barnfield would have personally known Henry Willobie.

In 1594 Barnfield was 21 but despite his young age he had a precociously mature writing style. Barnsfield's works were characterized by very unusual quotes from both antiquity and the Bible exactly in the style ofWillobie His Avisa. Barnfield's favorite authors were Philip Sidney , Edmund Spencer and Michael Drayton and he was an author who clearly knew either personally or by reputation William Shakespeare.

Barnfield was an excellent poet but the quality of his work could be particularly uneven.

 We notice that the author of Willobie His Avisa was particularly disdainful towards wealthy people and money  we know this to be very much the case for Richard Barnfield  who clearly disliked the emerging capitalist society and he was an advocate for a return to a contented pastoral and more moralistic  Arcadian lifestyle.

Barnfield was known to have been a fervently admire the works of both Robert Greene and George Gascoigne.

Barnfield could be an extremely didactic writer and despite his overt homosexuality (an activity that was illegal at the time ) his works are peppered with judgmental and puritanical religious beliefs.

Barnfield was a libel writer and wrote some of the most controversial books ever seen in Elizabethan England.

Barnfield was almost unique in Elizabethan England in that he openly revealed his homosexuality and wrote the two most controversial books of the Elizabethan era ?The Affectionate Shepherd? and ? Cynthia ?. Both these books describe his love and lust for a young man who he calls Ganymede who is being aggressively courted by a beautiful older woman. In both books he implores Ganymede to end his relationship with this woman who he names Guendolin.

We seem to have seen this narrative before and we have seen it in Willobie His Avisa and very specifically in the H.W. Dialog.

This striking narrative similarity assumes even greater importance when we consider that the work The Affectionate Shepherd was a work that was released only two months after the publication of Willobie His Avisa .

It is of critical importance that the work The Affectionate Shepherd was personally dedicated toPenelope Rich and that it is very easy to demonstrate that it is an insincere dedication that is an exercise in Ironia.

We will now examine this dedication.

To the right excellent and most beautiful lady, The lady Penelope Rich

Fayre lovely lady whose angelique eyes

Are Vestall candles of sweet beauties treasure,

Whose speech is able to inchant the wise

Converting joy to pain and pain to pleasure,

Accept this simple toy of my soules dutie

Which I present unto thy matchless beauty

Your Honours most affectionate

And perpetually denoted

Shepherd Daphnis.

There are multiple issues with this dedication for one thing it is anonymous it would not be until the next edition of The Affectionate Shepherd that Barnsfield would formally reveal that he himself was Shepherd Daphnis.

The fact that the dedication is anonymous means that the work is clearly not a bid for patronage. This now means that the author's intention is either to anonymously praise or anonymously libel Penelope Rich.

At first glance Barnfield appears to be praising Penelope Rich however we notice the conflicting statements that she is capable of converting joy to pain and pain to pleasure we also note the insinuation that she is able through her speech to enchant ( manipulate educated people) both these quotes are straight from Willobie His Avisa. we remember the description of Avisa as having a smile that can deceive the wise and we recall Avisa's speech to the Cavaleiro in Canto XV111 where Avisa describes ? A godly wench (woman) with a godless mind That paine might spring where pleasures grew?.

The close grouping of opposites in this dedication Joy to pain and Pain to pleasure is very suggestive that the device of Ironia is in action.

Barnfield is also ironically implying that Penelope is an extremely chaste woman and comparing her to to the high Goddess of chastity Vesta and insinuating that she was a nun of Vesta. Vesta's rules stated that if any of her nuns were unchaste they would be buried alive by 1594 dark rumors were already starting to circulate about Penelope Rich , all the poets knew that she was the Stella of Astrophil and Stella and some blamed her for Sidney's downfall in 1590 she was observed in public sporting Charles Blount's colors in a jousting contest there were definitely people that knew that she wasn't a chaste woman and many of the poets were aware of this fact.

Her comparison to the unerringly chaste Vesta is an ironic and defamatory comparison.

After this very ambiguous dedication Daphnis ( Richard Barnfield ) launches directly into the most extreme tirade of homoerotic verse that the Elizabethan age had ever seen, This book graphically describes Daphnis's love for a young man named Ganymede. This text is so explicit that it still raises eyebrows today . In the repressive Elizabethan age such a book would have been incredibly scandalous.

In anonymously dedicating such a controversial work to Penelope Rich what we are seeing is an author writing a scandalous work and dedicating it in turn to a scandalous woman. This is the Elizabethan equivalent of an author thumbing his nose at an Aristocrat.

What we are seeing is a continuation of the attack on Penelope Rich that we previously saw in Willobie His Avisa.

However our interest with The Affectionate Shepherd does not begin and end with the dedication to Penelope Rich we must also examine the plot of this work which we are already thinking may well be be yet another libel directed at Penelope Rich.

We can be entirely certain that The Affectionate Shepherd is intended to be a libel that is targeting Penelope Rich because after The complaint of Daphnis for Ganymede appears a poem sequence entitled ?The Shepherd's content? in this collection sonnet XXX11 is a sonnet about Cupid and love and it reads.

?Deep wounding arrow heart consuming fire

By thee sweet Astrophil forwent his joy?.

This is of course a criticism of Stella from the Astrophil and Stella sonnet sequence and it is specifically blaming Stella for causing Astrophil to live in misery. Penelope Rich unquestionably was aware that Stella represented herself and Barnfield is sending her a message that he doesn't like her.

This is hard evidence that ?The Affectionate Shepherd is a libel that is attacking Penelope Rich?. It is also hard evidence that Richard Barnfield was versed in libel writing.

The Affectionate Shepherd introduces us to four characters they are

1 Shepherd Daphnis (Who we already know is Richard Barnfield) he is the author and narrator of this work.

2 Ganymede , He is a beautiful and lusty young man .

3 Guendolen She is a beautiful older woman who Daphnis calls the Queen of beauty.

4 An unnamed older suitor

5 A second unnamed young man.

The plot is representative of the complaint of Daphnis , Daphnis's complaint is that he is in love with Ganymede but Ganymede is blind to his love and is infatuated with Guendolen who is aggressively courting him. Daphnis believes that Ganymede's love for Guendolin is inappropriate and he is begging Ganymede to leave Guendolin and start a relationship with him and together they will live the contented and non-materialistic life of Arcadian Shepherds.

The unnamed young man is shown to have died recently , this young man had been a suitor of Guendolin, Shepherd Daphnis laments his death and blames Guendolin for it. The older suitor is described in a very unflattering manner and he is described as also being a suitor to Guendolin and that he is entirely infatuated with her.

We instantly recognize this scenario as being identical to the H.W. dialog of Willobie His Avisa .

Shepherd Daphnis provides us with more information about the older suitor , Ganymede ,and the young man and Guendolin and the similarities grow even stronger.

Ganymede we are told has long amber locks this was exactly correct for Henry Wriothesley. We are told that Ganymede loves Guendolin and that he was won her through plaints and his own tears ? again this is identical with the H.W. dialog , H.W. pleads with Avisa and is frequently in tears throughout his dialog.

Daphnis specifically tells us that Ganymede is blind to his own love and also to the true nature of Guendolin who he describes as being an immoral and unchaste woman. It goes without saying that this is the narrative of the H.W. Dialog revisited.

Guendolin is an aristocrat she is described as being ?The Queen of beauty? in other words a Venus. Daphnis states ? Oh would she forsake my Ganymede in whose fair eyeballs you may clearly see base love stained with foul indignity?.

What Daphnis is saying is that he wants Guendolin to leave Ganymede who has lust but not true love for her. -This is precisely what Avisa accuses H.W. of .

The line fair eyeballs my be indicating that Ganymede has light colored eyes We know that Henry Wriothsley had light blue eyes.

In verse XXV11 Daphnis starts to insult Guendolin and implores Ganymede calling him his sweet heart to leave her.

? Leave Guendolen ( sweet hart) though she be fair

Yet she is light , not light in virtue shining

But light in her behaviour , to impaire

Her honor in her chastities declining.?

Exactly as the author of Willobie his Avisa Daphnis is telling Ganymede that Guendolin is an immoral and unchaste woman.

Daphnis challenges Ganymede to compare his love with that of Guendolin

?Compare the love of faire Queen Guendolin

With mine, and thou shalt see how she doth love thee

I love thee for thy qualities devine

But she doth love another swain (man) above thee

I love thee for thy gifts , she for her pleasure

I for thy virtue she for beauties treasure?. verse XXXV.

Daphnis now tells us that Guendolin has in the background a suitor who she loves above him and that she is simply loving him to satisfy her lust. We know this is correct for Penelope Rich she was having an affair with her true love Charles Blount but in 1594 Blount was not on the scene and I am very certain that during this year she had turned her affections to a string of suitors that included Essex circle members.

Daphnis tells us that a young man who he personally knew and mourns for was also a suitor of Guendolin but that this young man is recently dead and he depicts Guendolin as shedding tears for the obvious guilt that she feels for his death.

? A young man groaning under loves great load

Thinking to ease his burden ,rid his pains

For men have grief as long as life remains.? verse X11

Immediately we recognize these two young men, they are the combined figures of H.W. who make up the H.W. dialog .

The first is the Italian H.W. ( Ganymede) /Henry Wriothesley who is smitten with Avisa/Guendolin /Penelope Rich .

And also the Spanish H.W. ( Henry Willobie)/ The unnamed young man who is obsessed with Guendolin and is clearly suicidal we are shown that something has now occurred to the young and unnamed man and Daphnis tells us that that he is now dead and that his face has been stained with filthy gore. This seems to indicate that Daphnis has personally seen his dead body. Daphnis now states.

? Staining his face with blood and filthy gore

His face that to Guendolin was more dear

Than love of Lords, or any lordly peer.? verse X111.

This important line is telling us that this young man had been a suitor to Guendolin and that Guendolin had for a time loved him, and also that this man was a commoner ( Something that we know Henry Willobie was). Who Guendolin loved more than any Lordly peer. This indicates that Guendolin is herself an aristocrat . ( Something we know to be correct for Penelope Rich ).

So the passage is really describing forbidden and ultimately impossible love between a commoner and an immoral and lascivious aristocratic woman .

We are reminded of Avisa who we are assured is happy to be approached by suitors both high and low of each degree.

This is indicating that Avisa is having relationships with both aristocrats and commoners.

Daphnis now turns his attention to The older suitor. Daphnis harshly criticizes this suitor contemptuously calling him a ? doting fool with an age enfeebled brain?.

?But her an old-man had been suitor too

that in his age began to dote again

her he would often pray , and often woo

When through old age enfeebled was his braine

But she before had loved a lusty youth

That now was dead the cause of all her ruth. ( grief).? Verse V

This is very clearly a reference to the ? Old Player ? Mr W.S. who had frequently attempted to woo Avisa Barnfield very clearly does not like this suitor and calls him a degenerate older man . We know that Barnfield was a writer very given to exaggeration so we should regard this man as definitely being older than both Ganymede and Daphnis but not as the doddering geriatric that Daphnis is portraying him as being we must also remember that Barnfield had scarcely turned 21 at the time of writing this book.

Barnfield gives us more information about this suitor .

This was the doting fool this was the man that loved fair Guendolena Queen of beauty

She cannot shake him off do what she can.

For he has vowed to her his souls duty

Making him trim upon the holy-days

And crowns his love with Garlands of Baies?. verse1X

This is again an important passage it is telling us that the suitor has been very persistent in his unsuccessful pursuit of Guendolin This is exactly the same scenario given for W.S.'s infatuation with Avisa.

In Willobie His Avisa W.S. is portrayed as being an actor and a poet and an influential friend of H.W. a number of Puns are made on his first name beingWill but here I suspect that the use of the wordshake is a pun on his last name Shakespeare.

Like the old player W.S. This old suitor is shown to be an immoral person to ?trim on holidays? meant that a person who was immoral had to lie on the ground before a church over the Easter holy week confess their sins and trim their beards and hair .

The fact that Ganymede and this old suitor are trying to woo the same woman indicates a love triangle between the two and also indicates that all three are moving in the same circle.

This older suitor is shown to be a very accomplished and accoladed poet who is writing love poetry about Guendolin . A crown of Baies is a reference to the crown of bays that was traditionally awarded to the winning poets and dramatists of the ancient Pythian games.

The fact that this suitor is crowning Guendolin with garlands of bays means that he is writing a lot of very accomplished love poetry about her.

Barnfield hates this suitor and openly admits that he wishes that this old suitor was dead instead of the unnamed young man.

Barnfield gives us one more piece of information about this suitor.

?Now he doth stroke his beard and now again

he wipes drivel from his filthy chin

Now offers a kiss but high disdaine

Will not permit her hart to pity him.? Verse X1

The portraits that we have of Shakespeare all show him as having a beard. The description of Guendolin as being hard hearted with a heart harder than Adamant or steel is exactly the same description that is given of Avisa and also of the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets.

55: Hadrian Dorrell what's in a

name ?

 The most unusual name of Hadrian Dorrell is widely believed to be a pseudonym , predictably no historical figure called Hadrian Dorrell has ever been found and no researcher has ever offered any kind of explanation of how it has been arrived at.

I agree with the general consensus that the name represents a pseudonym ,

The name Richard Barnfield  gives the anagram

hadRian Drrel  

This is very close to Hadrian Dorrell and phonetically the two names have an  identical sound . Elizabethan anagrams were frequently inexact  and unlike modern  anagrams did  not have to be word perfect spellings.  With Elizabethan anagrams the sound rather than the spelling was what was important.

Hadrian would have been a sought after pseudonym for Richard  Barnfield because  the  Roman emperor Hadrian like Barnfield  was a homosexual  who was in love with a young man named Antinous.

We also need to remember that Antinous was the main suitor of Penelope  in Homer's  Odyssey

56: The Shepherd's Calendar and Willobie His Avisa.

The H.W. dialogue contain a number of quotes that come from Edmund Spenser's  influential pastoral The Shepherd's Calendar.  Spenser's  book presents  twelve eclogues then the commentator E.K.  sheds further light on the text of the  poem. 

Hadrian Dorrell also takes some quotes from E.K and tries to present himself as an E.K. type  Dorrell comes across as being a  very smug figure who has inside information about the poem

Dorrell claims Willobie His Avisa was written 35 years prior to 1596 ie in 1561   but this cannot be correct because The Shepherd's Calendar was first  published in 1579. The first edition of Willobie His Avisa also contains a number of quotes from John Florio's Garden of Recreation which dates to 1592. 

There can be no question that Dorrel is a liar and The libel Willobie His Avisa was written in 1594. 

57: Locrine

A major point of interest for us is that in July of 1594 ( two months after the release of Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece) a play was entered into the stationers register re called Locrine this play was not published until 1595 but the fact that it was entered in 1594 means that audiences of that year must have been familiar with it .

Locrine is a play that has always posed a conundrum to Shakespearean scholars . the reason is that on its title page it is stated that the play has been ? Newly set forth overseene and corrected by W.S .?

Of critical importance is that the lead female character of this play is the chaste and powerfulQueen Guendoline who is cheated on by her husband.

Locrine is a play that traditionally has always been associated with William Shakespeare and was formally included in the second impression of Shakespeare's Third Folio in 1664. The decision to remove it from the Shakespearian canon has only been a modern one.

It is not impossible that Shakespeare had a hand in this play.

We now see an undeniable pattern start to emerge.

The pattern runs like this.

1594 May Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece released

1594 September Willobie His Avisa written This work is a misogynistic reaction against The Rape of Lucrece . It recasts Lucrece as a cuckold and libels William Shakespeare for being an immoral poet who praises her. The book contains a major dissuasio imploring H.W. to leave Avisa.

1594 July The play Locrine by W.S. entered into Stationers register.

1594 November The work The Affectionate Shepherd By Richard Barnfield is released . This is a second libel on Penelope Rich and also is continues the argument initiated inWillobie His Avisa that the fair youth must leave a seductress.

This libel is again targeting William Shakespeare rewriting his work and openly calling him a writer who venerates unchaste women. The attempt to publicly shame William Shakespeare and destroy his reputation that was first initiated in the libel Willobie His Avisais being repeated here.

In Locrine Queen Guendoline is cheated on by her husband but in The Affectionate Shepherdthrough an ironic reversal Queen Guendoline is recast as being an unchaste woman.

The Affectionate Shepherd runs an identical dialog to The H.W. dialog of Willobie His Avisa.

The similarities of these two works are too strong to simply be coincidental and these two works are libels that are running identical narratives and are targeting the same people and these two libels have been released only four months apart.

The Affectionate Shepherd has been personally dedicated to Penelope Rich and by doing this Barnfield is sending Penelope Rich an unmistakable personal message that he wants her to leave his Ganymede (Henry Wriothesley) alone. We also notice that Ganymede is the beautiful youth who was abducted by the Eagle of Zeus and we remember how Avisa is constantly referred to as being an Eagle and from our earlier discussion we recall how we can link The name Penelope to an Eagle because Penelope was classically linked to an eagle in her dream sequence of Penelope and her suitors that appears in Homer's Odyssey.

I think that the author of Willobie his Avisa was indeed Richard Barnfield and not Mathew Roydon. I look at this full question in depth in my authorship essay.

Just two months after the release of The Affectionate Shepherd Barnfield would follow it up with Cynthiawithin which he would reiterate his love for Ganymede.

After this nothing further would be heard from Barnfield until 1598 when he published a slim volume calledPoems in Diverse Humours.

In this work there appears a string of poems that praise English poets The poets mentioned are in the following order Sidney, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton and Shakespeare . It appears that this order represents a meritocracy and it is noted that Shakespeare is placed last on this list.

Barnfield appears to heap praise on Shakespeare but after Barnfield's dedication to Penelope Rich we know to be cautious about Barnfield and his ironic praise.

The statement reads,

?And Shakespeare thou, whose honey flowing vein

(pleasing the world) thy praises doth obtain

Whose Venus and Lucrece (sweet and chaste)

Thy name in fames immortal book have placed

Live ever you . at least in fame live ever

Well may the body die but the fame lives ever.?

Barnfields praise sounds sincere on the surface but we notice that Barnfield appears to be speaking about Shakespeare as if he is already dead , and he is specifically mentioning Shakespeare's death the year is 1598 and it is very premature to be speaking about Shakespeare's death.

To me this echoes Barnfield's earlier statement in The Affectionate Shepherd where he wants the ?doddering old suitor (who is a poet ) to be dead?.

The term ?Honey flowing ? is I think an insult and is referring the reader to Psalm 55:21 which states

?The words of his mouth were smoother than butter

He lauded and larded the man he hoped to devour

He buttered him with flattery and then battered him with malice

Beware of a man who has too much honey on his tongue

Soft smooth oily words are most plentiful when truth and sincerity

Are most scarce?.

As if to underline this point Barnfield now writes the very accomplished poem ?It fell upon a day .? This is a beautifully written poem that is warning a man to beware of false friends who offer him flattery but will desert him when he no longer has any money. The reader is reminded that in 1598 Henry Wriothesley was having enormous financial difficulties and was close to bankruptcy.

Also present is Barnfield's excellent sonnet ? If music and sweet poetry agree?.

A number of other sources at the time described Shakespeare as being honey tonged . Shakespearean scholars have always interpreted this as praise but it is possible that it wasn't praise and that Shakespeare may have had a reputation particularly among the academic community (who seemed to give him the nickname of honey tonged) as being a writer who had obtained his status through excessive flattery of Aristocrats.

This might actually be correct because Shakespeare's dedications to Henry Wriothesley are obsequious in the extreme.

58: The Affectionate Shepherd , the target is Penelope Rich.

The book The Affectionate Shepherd was personally dedicated by Richard Barnfield to Penelope Rich.

Many scholars who have read the book The Affectionate Shepherd have thought that it is commenting on a relationship that Penelope Rich was personally involved in . The problem is that no researcher has been able to determine exactly which relationship it is alluding to , this is because the players do not fit with either her relationship with Charles Blount  or her relationship with Philip Sidney and Lord Rich.

But the reason why readers haven't been able to understand which relationship the book is alluding to is because they haven't realised that it is referring to the same relationship that Shakespeare is alluding to in his sonnets.

I entirely agree with the concept that the book IS about a relationship that Penelope Rich was personally involved in and if we take this as a starting point we can immediately see that the dedication is insincere and that the  full work is an attack on Penelope Rich herself.

The first edition of The Affectionate Shepherd was anonymous , this has to mean that in writing it Barnfield was not looking for personal advancement or favor in writing this book.

This really only leaves two possibilities 1: That Barnfield was a secret admirer of Penelope Rich 2 : That the book is a libel attacking Penelope Rich.

The first assumption cannot be correct because there is only one character who Penelope Rich can be and that is Queen Guendolen .

Queen Guendolen is depicted in a highly derogatory manner , she is described as being a Queen of beauty but also a serial adulteress . She is shown as an older unchaste woman who is aggressively courting a naive effeminate young man who Barnfield is in love with.

Guendolen is described as genuinely loving another man over The Fair Youth and Barnfield states that she is simply playing a game with The Fair Youth's emotions. 

The other reason why we know that this book has not really been written for Penelope Rich is its strong and scandalous homoerotic content.

As we know homosexuality was a capital offence in Elizabethan England it would have been very embarrassing for Penelope Rich to have had such a scandalous work personally dedicated to her. With its explicit homoerotic contentThe Affectionate Shepherd fully qualifies as being one of the most controversial works of the Elizabethan age.

Barnfield would have known this but didn't care, he wanted to publicly disgrace Penelope Rich . He knew full well that all readers would think that Queen Guendolen was Penelope Rich and that they would be motivated to find out what the affair was that Queen Guendolen was involved in.

In his dedication Barnfield is dedicating a scandalous work to a scandalous woman.  

It is entirely clear what Barnfield is trying to accomplish with this work , like the earlier libel Willobie His Avisa he is trying to  publicly shame Penelope Rich into ending her relationship with The Young man whom Barnfield desires.

The only difference is that in The Affectionate Shepherd Barnfield is being even more obvious than he was in Willobie His Avisa and is openly naming Penelope Rich. But at the sametime as trying to shame and end Penelope Rich's relationship with this young man Barnfield is trying to describe his own love for this young man.

The fact that Barnfield has to resort to communicating with Penelope Rich and the Fair Youth through the press is an indication that he is not formally a member of their circle and may be only peripherally known to them.. 

The second critical point is that the homoerotic desire between Shepherd Daphnis and the young man Ganymede is clearly NOT referring to Penelope Rich this is of paramount importance because it demonstrates that there is NOT a causal relationship between the homoerotic content of this work and the person to whom the book has been dedicated to.

This now shows us that the full book is functioning as a pretext to allow Richard Barnfield to describe his love and desire for an aristocratic young man and as such functions as AN INDIRECT DEDICATION to this young aristocrat.

  If this is the case then the Young Man whom Barnfield is targeting must be in the circle of Penelope Rich because Barnfield knew that if he got the attention of Penelope Rich he would also get the attention of this young man.

And that this young man would be in no doubt that the full work was really directed at him.

As we know there was an effeminate young Aristocrat in Penelope Rich's circle who perfectly fits the description of Richard Barnfield's  Ganymede and that  of course was Henry Wriothesley. 

59: Henry Wriothesley , the common connection between Penelope Rich and William Stanley.

Richard Barnfield dedicated The Affectionate Shepherd and Cynthia to Penelope Rich and William Stanley respectively.

Both works carry the homoerotic narrative of Shepherd Daphnis ( a person whom Barnfield identifies as being himself) and the young Aristocrat Ganymede.

As I have argued there is not a causal relationship between the homoerotic narrative and the person to whom the work is dedicated to which suggests that the works are actually targeting a third person.

It is obvious that the homoerotic work is not intended for Penelope Rich but it would also have been obvious to readers that the homoerotic narrative was not intended to be alluding to William Stanley.

The reasons for this are as follows , Ganymede is constantly depicted as an effeminate delicate youth, who needs protection ( Daphnis offers to protect Ganymede when they go to feasts). 

Daphnis offers Ganymede extensive conduct advice , which tells him to listen to his parents , not to be governed by lust not to be so self absorbed . Daphnis tells Ganymede that he wants Ganymede to be either my boy or my wife - this is a suggestion that Barnfield thinks Ganymede could have been either and is an intimation that Ganymede is a cross dresser . Daphnis keeps telling Ganymede to worship none other than Jove. ( Jove is the god who had homosexual desire for Ganymede) so what Barnfield is imploring Ganymede to do is fully embrace his homosexuality and chose him as his lover.

In the Affectionate Shepherd November 1594 , Ganymede is in a relationship with Guendolen, and Barnfield criticizes Ganymede for allowing Guendolen to influence him.

In Cynthia February 1595 Ganymede does not appear to be in any relationship and Daphnis is now praising his chastity.

None of this fits with William Stanley. Stanley was thirty three , the Elizabethan  life expectancy was forty two , a man of thirty three was definitely middle aged and not a Fair Youth.

In the sonnets which I date to 1593 , Shakespeare was thirty and Wriothesley twenty one , Shakespeare remarks that he  is already feeling his age and consistently makes it clear that The Fair Youth is a younger person than himself.

There is no evidence of any sexual ambiguity in William Stanley , and his actions seem to be those of a man who was entirely hetero-sexual.

Henry Wriothesley on the other hand was a known bisexual , and evidence is suggesting that he was also a cross dresser.

Ganymede is described as delicate limbed and rather naive and  sorely need of conduct advice . William Stanley was a well traveled worldly wise man , he did not need any protecting he had already killed single single-handedly a tiger and had fought and won personal duels he was an expert in tilts and wasn't a delicate person.

Wriothesley in contrast certainly did need conduct advice he was not well integrated into the Aristocratic world  and his behavior and volatile temper constantly got himself offside with both the Cecils and The Queen. The paintings of Wriothesley show a slender and thin boned delicate youth fully suggestive of Barnfield's Ganymede.

The sequence of relationships is wrong for William Stanley , Barnfield is suggesting that Ganymede was first in a relationship with an unchaste older woman then has become a chaste idealised figure whom Barnfield seems to think can give him undivided attention.

This simply isn't correct for William Stanley ,in the time frame 1594-1595 Stanley was very much involved with Elizabeth Vernon and married her in February 1595 .

However Wriothesley is a different story , by 1594 Wriothesley had formally rejected Elizabeth Vernon as his wife I think Wriothsley WAS being courted by Penelope Rich in1593 and  1594 but by late 1594 Charles Blount had returned from Portsmouth and by 1595 they were openly living together so the scenario of Ganymede being in a relationship with an unchaste woman in 1594 then being single in early 1595 is entirely possible for Wriothesley, especially when we consider that by early 1595 Wriothesley had not yet started his relationship with Elizabeth Vernon ( Penelope's cousin) .In early 1595 Wriothesley was in between relationships and may well have been single


60: The target for Barnfield's affection  is Ganymede not

Penelope Rich or William Stanley.

Barnfield is dedicating his books to Penelope Rich and William Stanley neither are good candidates to be Ganymede however both  at the time were closely associated with Henry Wriothesley and Henry Wriothesley is an OUTSTANDING candidate to be Ganymede. 

Wriothesley and Penelope Rich were close friends and in the same aristocratic circle . Stanley married Elizabeth Vernon a woman Wriothesley was supposed to marry . Stanley and Wriothesley were on good terms and Wriothesley attended Stanley's marriage , many scholars think Shakespeare's  play " A midsummer's night dream" was specifically written for this event and performed at the wedding.

So the common connector between Penelope Rich and William Stanley ( the two recipients of Barnfield's dedications) was Henry Wriothesley and I am entirely certain that it is Henry Wriothesley who Barnfield is targeting.

When poets tried to secure the patronage of an aristocrat, in their writings  they would try to glorify  and amplify the characteristics of the patron that they were trying to secure , it is clear that despite the dedications the object of  Barnfield's REAL affection is Ganymede the characteristics that Barnfield outlines for Ganymede certainly don't apply to Penelope Rich and are not a good match for the more mature William Stanley but they they entirely fit with Henry Wriothesley.

Barnfield was clearly a homosexual author with a strong dislike of women , for such a writer the young bisexual Henry Wriothesley would represent the pinnacle of all patrons to whom he could aspire to impress.  

Barnfield could not formally dedicate his works to Wriothesley any more than Shakespeare could formally dedicate his sonnets to Wriothesley.

This is because the action of doing so would have been socially injurious to Wriothesley and all readers would immediately link The Fair Youth and Ganymede to Henry Wriothesley .

These works were written at a time when homosexuality was a capital offence Barnfield would certainly have wanted to formally dedicate his works to Wriothesley but knew that he couldn't.I don't think that Barnfield was in The Essex circle  so all he could do was write his homoerotic works and dedicate them to Aristocrats who were closely aligned to Wriothesley knowing full well that Wriothesley would read his works. Barnfield describes Ganymede as a delicate youth , with a pale ivory complexion long amber coloured hair fair eyeballs ( In other words blue eyes) , Barnfield uses many terms that only another homosexual would understand and the full text has been written in a racy lurid style that Wriothesley was known to enjoy , the full work reads as if it is literature that has been written by a young person to another young person.

Barnfield does not describe Ganymede in a remotely manly fashion and unleashes a tirade of homosexual innuendo's directed at Ganymede , why would Barnfield do this if Ganymede was a hetero-sexual ? , If Ganymede was a hetero-sexual and Barnfield was looking for his patronage then Barnfield would have described him in a manly and heroic way , but Barnfield does nothing of the kind rather Barnfield writes strongly homoerotic literature the insinuation here has got to be that Ganymede himself was a person who enjoyed homoerotic literature and if this was the case then Ganymede was very likely to have been a bisexual in real life ( something we know to be true for Henry Wriothesley). 

Barnfield describes Ganymede as being an exceptionally handsome young man ( we know that this was correct for Wriothesley who on his entry to Elizabeth's court was considered to have been the most handsome amongst her courtiers).

In Cynthia and the Affectionate Shepherd , Barnfield takes a number of quotes from antiquity, and they all have homoerotic connotations this indicates that he must have thought that Ganymede would understand and appreciate these references this indicates that Ganymede must have been classically educated we know this to be correct for Henry Wriothesley. Barnfield also states that he will gift Ganymede with a tennis racket. Tennis was a game for aristocrats and Wriothesley was known to be an avid tennis player. 

As if Barnfield had not made it obvious enough as to who Ganymede was he calls Ganymede Adonis ( something Shakespeare had already done with The Fair Youth) and Narcissus - As we know Narcissus is a figure strongly suggestive of Henry Wriothesley , Shakespeare linked the Fair Youth to Narcissus in his sonnets and Henry  Clapham wrote a book of conduct literature directed at Wriothesley in which  Wriothesley was given the persona of Narcissus.

Furthermore Barnfield is calling his young man Ganymede in Venus and Adonis 1593 Shakespeare also alludes to Adonis as being a Ganymede like figure.

In 1594 Wriothesley was about to turn 21 at which age he would have been in a position to fully access his families significant fortune , Wriothesley had a deep and natural interest in literature  and was generous with money , the poets all knew this and in 1593-1594 a number of poets ( Nashe, Markham, Shakespeare and probably Marlowe were all trying to get into his favour, Shakespeare is the writer who seemed to gain the greatest traction with Wriothesley but  Barnfield knew of Shakespeare , Penelope Rich and William Stanley all of these people knew Henry Wriothesley therefore Barnfield must have known of Henry Wriothesley , Barnfield we know was a poet looking for patronage and he would have regarded the young handsome and  bisexual  Wriothesley as the very most desirable patron of them all.

Barnfield knew that he couldn't match Shakespeare's natural talent as a poet and playwright , and later he would begrudgingly admit Shakespeare's greatness so Barnfield was trying a different tack , he was writing the most explicitly homoerotic verse ever seen in the Elizabethan age knowing full well that such literature couldn't fail to get Wriothesley's attention. . 

There can be no doubt that Wriothesley on reading Barnfied's homoerotic sequence would be in no doubt whatsoever that it was referring to him.

There is also the strong likelihood that Wriothesley would have enjoyed this sequence and this is the state of affairs that Shakespeare is bemoaning in his Rival Poet sequence that The Fair Youth has been swayed by the flattery of another writer.- That writer was Richard Barnfield.

Most researchers seem to think that Barnfield's dedication to William Stanley implies that an extremely close relationship existed between the two , however  I am not certain that this was actually the case , I think we need to take Barnfield's dedications with a grain of salt, on first reading of the dedication to Penelope Rich one would think that Barnfield held Penelope in reverence but on reading of the book we see that he is clearly  libelling Penelope Rich and both Penelope and Charles Blount were known to have disliked this book.

On first reading the dedication to William Stanley one would think that the two were the best of friends and that it was already a foregone conclusion that Stanley would accept Barnfield as his personal poet however there is actually no reason to believe any of this.

Other than this dedication we actually can't link Barnfield to Stanley in any way,- if Barnfield was so close to Stanley why did he not dedicate The Affectionate Shepherd written only three months before Cynthia to him ?

Barnfield could not have been ignorant to the fact that when Cynthia was released  Stanley was only weeks away from being married and that it would have been a monumental embarrassment for him to have had a book of lurid homoerotic verse personally dedicated to him.

If Barnfield was genuinely  in love with Stanley why would he feel the need to announce it in such a public and inopportune moment ?

Despite Barnfield's claims of closeness with Stanley , Stanley certainly never offered him any patronage of any kind. If Barnfield was such a close friend of Stanley's why would he release such a controversial work and dedicate it to William Stanley on the eve of his wedding ? knowing full well that such a work could be intensely embarrassing to William Stanley especially since Stanley's wedding was an Aristocratic affair with the Queen present.

In Barnfield's dedication to Stanley Barnfield is clearly speaking to a significantly older person and states that because of his youthful years his perfection cannot be great.

This is very much at odds with the Ganymede narrative because in the Ganymede narrative Barnfield is consistently speaking to Ganymede as if Ganymede is a younger person than himself. In the Affectionate Shepherd Barnfield offers Ganymede all kinds of conduct literature and advice that admonishes him to cut his hair , obey his parents , not to tell lies , control his temper , embrace his homosexuality, and not to dally with unchaste women.

It is inconceivable that the thirty four year old Earl William Stanley would want or be remotely receptive to this type of advice particularly if it were coming from a twenty year old .

Barnfield was yhe same age as Wriothesley but Wriothesley was generally considered to be very young for his age , in his sonnets Shakespeare adopts a father figure type persona and offers Wriothesley  much conduct advice , Barnfield does the same thing but he casts himself as an older admirer of Wriothesley.

Wriothesley WAS a needy person who didn't have a father  and did dote on older men ( Robert Devereux was a case in point) the full scenario of a poet offering conduct literature to Wriothesley is far more  credible than the scenario of a twenty year old poet offering  conduct literature to the middle aged and worldly-wise William Stanley.

61: Barnfield's rationale

As I have already stated in his homoerotic verse Barnfield is targeting neither Penelope Rich or William Stanley. but rather a person who is commonly known to both of these people . The fact that Barnfield dedicated a sequence of homoerotic verse to Penelope Rich is unequivocal evidence that there is NOT a causal relationship between the homoerotic verse and the person to whom the work is being dedicated to , and by extension is unequivocal evidence that Barnfield is employing the device of  an INDIRECT dedication.

The person to whom Barnfield was writing his homoerotic verse  was a person who was closely known to both Penelope Rich and William Stanley and and that person was of course Henry Wriothesley.

Barnfield is working to a plan and his rationale was as follows.

Barnfield   was not a formal member of the Essex circle , Barnfield was an entirely homosexual author who was infatuated with Henry Wriothesley. Barnfield in 1594 is in London and is watching Henry Wriothesley and his activities very closely. It may very well be that Barnfield personally knew Shakespeare and superficially may have been on cordial terms with him but I think Barnfield hated and was inanely jealous of Shakespeare and his close relationship with Wriothesley.

I doubt that Barnfield was a member of the Essex circle, so any dialogue that he opened with Wriothesley had to be through the medium of the public press.

With all of Barnfield's works he is trying to cause the greatest commotion possible, but is also in each of these works trying to influence and in the process gain the attention and hopefully the affections of the object of his love, Henry Wriothesley.

Barnfield's rationale was first to use Willobie His Avisa to  communicate to H.W. ( Henry Wriothesley) that he was surrounded by immoral and untrustworthy people Avisa and W.S. ( Penelope Rich and William Shakespeare). That both would ultimately destroy him and that he needed to break his friendship with both.

Barnfield immediately followed this  with The Affectionate Shepherd , Barnfield again continues his argument that Ganymede ( Henry Wriothesley) is surrounded by immoral friends Queen Guendolen  ( Penelope Rich ) and the Old poetic suitor ( William Shakespeare ) and that he must leave these two, however Barnfield is now building on his dialogue and is openly stating his love for Ganymede. By revealing these grave threats to Wriothesley Barnfield was hoping that Wriothesley would become obligated to him and would accept him as both a poet and a lover .

However at this point Wriothesley would have been very aware that he had been made to look foolish in the Libel Willobie His Avisa but he would have also have understood that The Affectionate Shepherd had been written  to him , Shakespeare's sonnets tell us that The Fair Youth ( Henry Wriothesley) liked the work of The Rival Poet. We need to remember that at this point Barnfield had still not formally revealed his name so Wriothesley may well have been intrigued  as to precisely who this author was. In his works Barnfield assumes the persona of Shepherd Daphnis , Daphnis is clearly educated and pretends to be an older figure than Wriothesley and comes across as a rather sexually aggressive and dominant figure who gives Ganymede a lot of conduct advice , Daphnis also  tells Ganymede to fully embrace his homosexuality and that that he is not interested in money , The character that Barnfield adopted as his persona, Shepherd Daphnis from the  Greek myth was a physically very desirable and lascivious man who was widely admired by both men and women, all of these factors may have contributed to a type of mystique forming around Daphnis and Wriothesley may even have thought that Daphnis was another Aristocrat.

But the full mystique that Barnfield had built around himself by adopting the Shepherd Daphnis character may well have been entirely fictional and had no correlation to the real life Richard Barnfield..

Barnfield dedicated this scandalous book to Wriothesley's close friend Penelope Rich knowing full well that the book would cause a scandal and indirectly cause unwanted attention to start falling on Penelope Rich and Her actions.

Barnfield closely follows The Affectionate Shepherd with Cynthia and breaks his anonymity in doing so. His rationale is as follows . Wriothesley's relationship with Penelope Rich is over and Wriothesley is for the moment single and therefore potentially available.

Wriothesley had formally reneged on his marriage contract with Elizabeth de Vere , William Cecil had hit him with the exorbitant fine of four thousand pounds for breech of contract. Wriothesley cannot pay this and has to borrow money . At this point Wriothesley is technically bankrupt and is in no position to be a patron to Shakespeare or anyone else.

The theatres have reopened and Shakespeare is with  Lord Chamberlain's Men and is increasingly apart from Wriothesley. Shakespeare is now a fading influence on Wriothesley .

Barnfield knows all of this and knows that he must act immediately. He dedicates Cynthia to William Stanley an aristocrat whom Wriothesley is closely involved with at the time. Barnfield knows full well that Stanley is about to be married  and to have this type of book dedicated to him would be acutely embarrassing but  Barnfield doesn't care , Barnfield is fully fixated on Wriothesley.

On reading Barnfield's dedication to William Stanley Barnfield seems to be insinuating that Stanley has been offering him gifts and that the formal acceptance of Barnfield by Stanley into patronage is already a done deal.

Of course none of this might actually have been true , Barnfield may have simply have been stating this in order to play one Aristocrat against the other  and hopefully force Wriothesley to act.

I suspect Barnfield knew that The Fair Youth had liked his poetry and so has written a dedication that implies that he was about to be accepted into William Stanley's patronage.

He was doing this in the hope that Wriothesley would be concerned that Barnfield and his talent for homoerotic verse were going to be lost to William Stanley and that to prevent this from happening Wriothesley would approach Barnfield.

Neither events happened , Stanley did not accept Barnfield into his patronage and neither did Henry Wriothesley..

In Cynthia , Barnfield , idealises Ganymede , reiterates his love for him , and tells Ganymede that money isn't important to him and that all he want's is a relationship with Ganymede and for the two to go off together and live in an Arcadian  world. Critically Barnfield breaks anonymity and reveals his true identity.

In Cynthia Barnfield tells us that he has a mistress who turns out to be the Queen. Barnfield heaps much praise on this person the reason why this character is present is because Barnfield knows that by affixing his name onto such a work he is openly declaring himself to be a homosexual. By doing this he is risking his own life , he tells us that his mistress is Eliza ( Queen Elizabeth) and is very obsequious to her because he is trying to stay onside with the Queen - who he knows will definitely be present at William Stanley's wedding.

In dedicating the work to William Stanley Barnfield was cynically attempting to shift the spotlight of attention from William Stanley and his marriage to Elzabeth de Vere onto Richard Barnfield and his love for Ganymede..

62:Barnfield's plan backfires.

The full plan backfired , once Barnfield broke anonymity Wriothesley would have realised that Shepherd Daphnis was simply an infatuated boy, Wriothesley may well have been annoyed that such a person seemed to think that he was entitled to give an Earl  conduct literature.

Shakespeare's sonnets tell us that the threat from the Rival Poet was only short lived  . In breaking anonymity  Barnfield was revealing his identity to Charles Blount who was in London at the time. Blount was already annoyed with the anonymous author of The Affectionate Shepherd the second he knew the identity of this author he may well have threatened him, and indeed Barnfield disappeared for the next three years from the literary scene.

Barnfield's father a puritan lawyer would have been aghast to see his son writing homoerotic literature to Aristocrats and formally disinherited him.

No Aristocrat ever offered Barnfield patronage and he was reduced to writing poems for young gentlemen whilst complaining about the lack of a formal patron. His later works are full of desperation and he reveals that he has no friends or money.

With the book Cynthia Barnfield had risked everything and had ultimately failed.

At first glance Barnfield's plan looks entirely insane but when we look at it closely it isn't.

Barnfield's timing is potentially very good , he is approaching Wriothesley at a juncture when Wriothesley is single, and also at a time when Wriothesley had no money Barnfield is trying to show Wriothesley that he is different from the other poets who strove for Wriothesley's favour when Wriothesley had money.

Barnfield is trying to depict himself as being an "all weather friend" to Wriothesley and as a person who is genuinely in love with Wriothesley himself not simply because he was a wealthy Aristocrat.

In The Affectionate Shepherd Barnfield tells Ganymede that he loves him and that  Ganymede's pain is his own pain this indicates that Barnfield would have been very likely to have acted against the people that he perceived were causing Ganymede pain.

He cynically  dedicated The Affectionate Shepherd to Penelope Rich because she was causing Wriothesley pain because he was still infatuated with her.

Cynthia was dedicated to William Stanley  this was because Stanley in marrying Elizabeth de Vere ( The woman Wriothesley was supposed to have married) had suddenly become the flavor of the month . The Cecils liked him . The Queen approved and he had received his title and a state wedding was being planned. His fortunes were in sharp contrast to Wriothesley. Wriothesley was completely offside with the Cecils , William Cecil was furious with Wriothesley's refusal to marry his granddaughter he fined him five thousand pounds and demanded immediate payment. Wriothesley had to borrow to pay this very steep fine.

In 1595 Wriothesley was technically bankrupt . Barnfield was still in love with Wriothesley  he would have seen the accolades being showered on Stanley but also would have seen Wriothesley languishing . Barnfield wanted to prove his love of Wriothesley was still strong by trying to take Stanley down a couple of notches.

Barnfield waited until Stanley's marriage was about to occur then personally dedicated the most most explicitly homoerotic book of the Elizabethan age to him.

This dedication would have been acutely embarrassing to Stanley.

Barnfield knew that poetry could be a two edged sword in the sense that it could honor and immortalize someone but also that it could be used to publicly ridicule a person.

In his Ganymede sequence Barnfield was looking to publicly shame Penelope Rich. William Shakespeare and William Stanley but also immortalize Henry Wriothesley..

Barnfield's actions were very risky but he wouldn't have executed his full plan unless he had some real hope of success.

Barnfield would have seen ( to his bewilderment) an older commoner - namely William Shakespeare get strongly into the good graces of Henry Wriothesley - Barnfield's logic would have been - if Shakespeare a commoner can do it then I as a young wealthy university educated Gentleman and gifted poet

can too.

Barnfield's plan was potentially very good but was ultimately flawed, like Shakespeare Barnfield probably understood that Wriothesley was actually looking for a mentor figure in life and so  like Shakespeare Barnfield tried to cater to this desire by portraying Shepherd Daphnis as being an older,  mentor type -figure and at the same time appeal to Wriothesley's sensual nature. The problem was however that Barnfield was simply too young  to physically be the older male figure who would act as a substitute father figure to Wriothesley.

Wriothesley  briefly had a substitute father figure with William Shakespeare but once he entered Elizabeth's court he came into contact with Penelope's brother Robert Devereux and Robert Devereux became his mentor and Wriothesley was known to dote on Robert Devereux.

Professor Leo Daugherty has argued that The Fair Youth was William Stanley and that William Shakespeare and Richard Barnfield were competing for his patronage.

I agree that Barnfield was indeed The Rival Poet  but I disagree with the concept of William Stanley being The Fair Youth.

The undeniable truth is that Shakespeare formally dedicated two major  works to Henry Wriothesley. Shakespeare never formally dedicated anything to William Stanley.

Shakespeare's dedications to Henry Wriothesley, written a year apart demonstrate a warm and ongoing friendship between the two, and  the young bisexual Henry Wriothesley is an outstanding candidate to be The Fair Youth  rather than the older  heterosexual William Stanley.



63: The Passionate Pilgrim.

The very next year 1599 A bizarre book appeared calledThe Passionate Pilgrim and the ?author ?of this work was William Shakespeare.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this was an unauthorized libel that was engineered by Barnfield and was again attacking Shakespeare.

The poems that appear in this compilation are very revealing and have been specifically chosen for this libel.

Barnfield's poem ? It fell upon a day?.appears in this collection as if its message is specifically referring to Shakespeare . A number of other poems from well known authors such as Marlowe and Raleigh appear readers would immediately recognize that these were not authentic poems . The reason that these poems are present is to amplify the argument of Robert Greene that Shakespeare was a plagiarist.

Once again in this collection we see a representation and cynical rewriting of Shakespeare's works . This time Shakespeare's first long poem ? Venus and Adonis is satirically rewritten. In Shakespeare's Venus and AdonisVenus was shown as an alluring figure who at times had Adonis under her spell. But The passionate Pilgrim offers a misogynistic rewriting of this poem and the Venus that tries to court Adonis is a lascivious whore who physically disgusts Adonis and he literally jumps into a lake to escape her.

Some works by Shakespeare do appear but they again are extremely revealing and I believe have been specifically chosen for this libel.

A number of sonnets appear from Love's Labor Lost but Shakespeare had intended for all of these to be comical examples of poorly written poetry.

These sonnets have been forwarded to present Shakespeare as being a second rate poet. ( We remember that Barnfield placed Shakespeare last on the list of commendable poets).

Two of Shakespeare's sonnets appear they are extremely revealing.

They are both sonnets from the Dark Lady sequence and both depict Shakespeare in a very negative light Sonnet 138 depicts Shakespeare admitting to the Dark Lady that he is old and that his best days are past (Again we see the return to the old infatuated Mr W.S.) and in this poem Shakespeare admits that he is a lying flatterer who pretends that he doesn't notice that the Dark Lady is older than him ( This was true for Penelope Rich who was older than Shakespeare).

Sonnet 144 also makes an appearance again it is an incriminating sonnet In this sonnet Shakespeare reveals that he is in a triangular love relationship and that he would pick the dark lady ( Penelope Rich) over the fair youth ( Henry Wriothsley). This is a direct reminder of W.S.'s betrayal of H.W. that was shown in Willobie His Avisa.

Poem X11 pointedly argues that crabbed age and youth cannot live together the poem criticizes an older lover and the narrator states that he defies this older person and wants his lover who is described as a sweet shepherd. And finally tells the older suitor to leave. This is clearly an allusion to W.S.'s friendship with Wriothesley. It becomes clear that the poems of this collection are not random but have been specifically selected to act as a libel on Shakespeare.

It is inconceivable that Shakespeare would willingly give Barnfield his sonnets but Shakespeare and Barnfield did have a common contact who did know about Shakespeare's sonnets.

In 1598 ( the year before the Passionate Pilgrimappeared ) Francis Meres wrote his book Palladis Tamia wits treasury in this book he reveals that he knows Shakespeare has written his sonnets and is distributing them privately amongst his friends. In the same book Meres also reveals that he is a close and personal friend of Richard Barnfield.

I speculate that Barnfield has abused his close friendship with Meres to gain access to Shakespeare's sonnets then has used them as ammunition in an incriminating libel against Shakespeare.

As is all of this was not enough Poem X1X makes an appearance This is the poem Whenas thine eye has chosen the dame that the character W.S. from Willobie His Avisa makes many quotes from.

That this particular poem should appear alongside Barnfields own poetry in a libel that is clearly attacking Shakespeare is ? smoking gun? evidence of Richard Barnfields authorship of Willobie His Avisa.

We also observe that Richard Barnfield has been involved in fierce libeling and effectively writing a literary duel with William Shakespeare for six solid years.

All the pieces of the puzzle are now now almost fully in place .We will now turn our attention to yet another libel that only serves as evidence to further strengthen our case.

And that Particular Libel is called Penelope's complaint.

64:Penelope's Complaint.

Penelope's complaint was a pamphlet written by another unknown writer Peter Colse that first appeared in 1596 its appearance was timed to coincide with the release of the 1596 edition of Willobie His Avisa.

Predictably no trace of any writer known as Peter Colse has ever been found.

I belive Barnfield has written this work and we notice the initials of P.C and S.D. as being authors S.D. I suspect refers to Barnfield's other nick name Shepherd Daphnis.

Scholars have forwarded S.D. as referring to Samuel Daniel but I disagree I think S.D is Shepherd Daphnis ( Richard Barnfield).

The poem starts with cryptic poems addressed to the Knight Ralph Horsey and his wife and daughter these are complimentary poems.

These are likely  present because of the confusion that the publication of the libel Willobie His Avisa caused .

The story goes that the entire Horsey family were deeply offended by Willobie his Avisa because they thought that The Nobleman  referred to Ralph Horsey . The libel certainly did not refer to the Horsey Family  and so Barnfield starts the work with a placation to these innocent victims. The other reason why the Horsey family had likely been singled out was that Ralph Horsey saw himself as a "protector of the faith", and  was involved in the laying of the atheism  charges leveled against Walter Raleigh.

Penelope's Complaint purports to be a reaction against the libeling of Penelope that occurred in Willobie His Avisa this immediately confirms to us that the central theme of Willobie His Avisa has been an attack on an unchaste woman named Penelope. If this wasn't the case then why would there even be a need for a pamphlet likePenelope's Complaint to defend the morals of Penelope that Avisa had called into question ???

It is most interesting to note that the author of Penelope's Complaint states that an unknown author has penned Willobie His Avisa  this is a clear indication that  he did not consider Henry Willobie to be the real author.

In the introduction the author of Penelope's complaint complains about the author of Willobie His Avisa and his "chaste" heroine Avisa  and states.

"The author hath of late published a pamphlet overslipping so many praiseworthy matrons hath registered the meanest ."

Hadrian Dorrell answers this  stating

I thought that chastity  had not been the meanest  but was one of the greatest gifts that God gives to man or woman.

If by meanest he meane any other object or subject of Willobie His Muse it is a meaning of his own making.

What is really being implied here ( as Dorrell hints) is that the term meanest is referring both to the chastity of Avisa  but also to her name .

Dorrell has registered the woman who is meanest in chastity  - Avisa.

But Colse has championed the woman who is richest in chastity - Penelope.

Dorrell confirms this in a foot note which states

True chastity is more often seen in the poorest than in The Richest.

In other words Poor Avisa is chaste and Penelope Rich is not.

Dorrell even goes on to underscore this point by having a mock trial where Poor chaste  Avisa  Defeats Rich unchaste Penelope.

Penelope's complaint supposedly gives Penelope's side of the story but I am highly skeptical that this is really the case.

The introductory Latin poem of Penelope's complaint is of huge interest to us and we need to study it carefully 

In depreciation of the excessive praise bestowed on Avisa.

Why seeks she titles boasts she

Riches why? Avisa

Is she with thy Penelope to vie ?

Penelope renowned revered , true to her own


An unknown woman from a place unknown

Penelope spouse of a prince of a glorious name.

Avisa child of an Innkeeper wife of the same

Penelope is chaste her husband being away


Chaste when he is at home by night and day

Penelope through twice ten years strong to endure:


Through scarce as many days could be kept pure

Penelope to a hundred lords refused her hand


The price and prayers of seven could scarce withstand

Penelope  would spin until her task was done


Never tired the spinning wheel with what she spun

The one (Penelope) Greeks and Romans praise

Avisa has but one man ( Willobie)

To her name and fame to raise

Long live Penelope and flourish fair

Avisa may never with Penelope compare.

There are multiple points of interest with this poem first it is a comparison between Penelope and Avisa we know that this is going to be a disingenuous comparison because we already know that Avisa and Penelope represent the same person.

Once again Penelope is shown as being RICH and Avisa is poor this is a knowing reference to the device of ironia employed in Willobie His Avisa. Penelope has titles and is married to an illustrious husband . The device has been reversed now it is Penelope who is chaste and Avisa is an unchaste woman who is chaste by night and day ONLY when her husband is present.

We now have our six suitors who we know are Robert Rich , Robert Devereux, Philip Sidney, Charles Blount , William Shakespeare , Henry Wriothesley . And last but Not Least Penelope Rich herself.


On the surface Penelope's Complaint appears to be a pamphlet that is taking Penelope's side and criticizing Avisa but a close reading reveals that this is not the case. Penelope is described as a weak woman who constantly bemoans the miseries and loneliness of her marriage she is shown as being a neglectful mother and a self pitying wife who doubts her own husbands fidelity . When she is finally reunited with her husband she is not overjoyed . Penelope is described as being past her prime and importantly as having eyes that have gone to soot -in other words like Penelope Rich she has black eyes.

Penelope allows the suitors to encamp in her house and tolerates a state of affairs that Avisa would never countenance.

Penelope's side of the story is given but it is very weak.

The brief nature of the text is in stark contrast to the grandiosity of Willobie His Avisa.

The pamphlet Penelope's complaint roughly follows Homer's story of Penelope and her suitors however Penelope breaks character with the following statement that she makes when cursing Helen for her lose morals.

Thy giggish tricks

Thy queanish trade

A thousand Bridwel Birds hath made.

Bridewell was a London  prison this was a former palace of King Henry V111 that was not converted into a prison for homeless children and disorderly women  until 1553 it certainly has no relevance to the Penelope of antiquity and is a reference that The Penelope of antiquity would not use.

This is an indication that the Penelope being described is not intended to be the Penelope of legend rather she is an Elizabethan woman.

The alternative title for Penelope's complaint is A mirror for wanton minions the wanton minions in this instance are the Essex circle.

We are told the book is also an argument against Venus Idolaters We know that Barnfield believes that Shakespeare idolizes unchaste woman therefore this is a swipe at him.

In the introduction makes mention of another workPenelope's last will and testament that will appear in English pentameters. No trace of this libel has ever been found but given the sinister title of this proposed work we can be certain that it would be a libel looking to hammer the final nail into the coffin of Penelope Rich's reputation.

We now see that Penelope's Complaint is a cynical ploy that is pretending to support Penelope and attack Avisa but in reality is a double hit on the same target.

This device of writing fake epistles that pretended to take the opposite side of an argument but were actually once again attacking the original target was a well known and widely used device of Elizabethan libels. Gabriel Harvey , Thomas Nashe and Robert Persons all used this device.

Every aspect of the Libel Willobie His Avisa has now been completely explained.

 Mr W.H.

An indirect dedication to Henry


The dedication to Mr W.H. in Shakespeare's sonnets has always been a touchstone for controversy.

I think that Shakespeare's sonnets were written to Henry Wriothesley and cover the time-frame between the years of 1592 to 1594 .

Francis Mere's tells us  that by at least 1598 Shakespeare's sonnets were already being circulated in manuscript form amongst his personal friends.

What this implies is that the main figure of admiration of the sonnets and the person who Shakespeare states is his best friend (The Fair Youth)  would have already been fully aware that the sonnets had been written for him and were referring to him.

When we consider this then we realise that in many ways any formal dedication would be superfluous because the Fair Youth ( Henry Wriothesley ) would already be fully cognisant of the fact that the sonnets had been written for him.

It is important to understand the historical backdrop of the sonnets and acknowledge that during the Elizabethan and Jacobian ages homosexuality was considered a crime that was punishable by death .

No reader of the sonnets can deny the strong homoerotic  undercurrents that are present in Shakespeare's sonnets these suggestive sonnets certainly had the potential to get both the writer ( William Shakespeare ) and The Fair Youth  significantly offside with the legal and religious institutions of the time.

The Fair Youth is clearly an Aristocrat, the sonnets represent high end art and as such certainly haven't been written for a commoner. It is noted that Shakespeare is very discreet and does not openly name anyone a sure indicator that the protagonists of the sonnets are high profile and powerful people. Shakespeare also refers to The Fair Youth as being " Lord of my love" and addresses  him in regal terms. It would be very  socially damaging for an aristocrat  to formally have a sequence of homoerotic verse personally dedicated to him , we also need to remember that by 1609 The Fair Youth was a Youth no longer , Henry Wriothesley's circumstances had changed he was no longer a wild non conformist but was now a married family man and heavily involved in high profile business ventures  very notably the Virginia Company.

Shakespeare was fully aware of this and circumvented this problem by writing an indirect dedication.

Shakespeare however still faced a very significant hurdle  he had to confer immortality onto a person without specifically naming them . This was very difficult but not impossible Philip Sidney had achieved this in his Sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella , he had immortalised both him self and Penelope Rich but had not actually openly named either himself or Penelope Rich he had however made puns on her surname and thereby indirectly had named her.

Shakespeare knew that he could not possibly openly name Henry Wriothesley and formally call him an Earl as always Shakespeare is discrete and indirectly tells us who he is referring to.

In the dedication Shakespeare is simply reversing Henry Wriothesley's initials a number of Elizabethan authors were known to use this device.

So Shakespeare is presenting us with  a cipher that is not particularly opaque. Especially when we recall that THE ONLY person to whom Shakespeare EVER dedicated anything was Lord Henry Wriothesley ( Whose initials H.W. "just happen" to be the mirror image of the initials W.H.) and also when we consider that Henry Wriothesley in everyway fulfulls all the required criteria to be The Fair Youth. 

It becomes clear that most observers would realise exactly who these sonnets had been written for.

However the mirror reversal of Wriothesley's initials also reveals   the Fair Youth's identity  in a more subtle manner...

Mr   is an abbreviation for Master so it becomes clear that The Sonnets are being dedicated to a young man.

This has led many researchers to look for a young man who was not an Aristocrat as being the dedicee.

But it is important to remember that within the sonnets Shakespeare reveals that The Fair Youth is an aristocrat (physically calling him a lord) however Shakespeare adresses him as a friend and the two seem to be on almost an equal footing.

The  sonnets are deeply personal statements  and as such Shakespeare can dedicate them to a Young man rather than an aristocrat because the Fair Youth is a person who Shakespeare seems to reguard as being a friend first an aristocrat second.

W.H. are Henry Wriothesley's initials reversed. H.W. to W.H. represents a mirror reversal.

66: Your own glass shows you...

when you look in it Mr W.H./ Mr H.W..


What Shakespeare is telling us here is that the sonnets have been dedicated to a young man and that an allusion to a mirror is being made.

We instantly recognize that this is an allusion to The Narcissus myth.

This again is referring the reader back to the text of the sonnets where Shakespeare openly compares The Fair Youth to the mythical figure of Narcissus.

 The dedication of the sonnets is making an allusion to a fair youth and a mirror as does Sonnet 1.

Master W.H. is  the only begetter ( father) of the sonnets.

We know that Henry Wriothesley was openly compared to Narcissus . In 1592  Wriothesley was still under the guardianship of William Cecil . In 1592 George Clapham the secretary to William Cecil wrote and dedicated a long poem called Narcissus to Henry Wriothesley. In Clapham's poem The myth of Narcissus has been transported to England and in the dedication Wriothsley is openly compared to Narcissus.

This poem was thinly disguised conduct literature directed at its central figure Narcissuss who was clearly intended to represent Henry Wriothesley.  In Claphams book Narcissus dies after being infatuated with his own reflection. William Cecil's message was clearly that - If you don't marry my granddaughter  young man you also will come to a sticky end.

In Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis there are a number of allusions to Narcissus and a number of Scholars think that Venus and Adonis is a defiant reply written by Shakespeare on behalf of Wriothesley informing Cecil that he will not be going through with the marriage with Elizabeth de Vere that Cecil had arranged for him. 

In the dedication Shakespeare is using this known linking of Henry Wriothesley  and Narcissus

to serve as.  a vehicle that indirectly names The Fair Youth who is the only begettor ( The only Father-the only inspiration) of the sonnets. 

In Hamlet Shakespeare reveals that a writer needs to hold a mirror up against nature.

The sonnets represent the mirror that Shakespeare is holding to the Fair Youth .

The sonnets represent the domain where Wriothesley will forever be young . The real Henry Wriothsley Earl H.W. will grow old and die but his reflection master W.H. remains an immortal figure within the sonnets.

In Shakespeare's sonnets the mirror always tells the truth , Shakespeare keeps telling The Fair Youth to look in the mirror because he will see his true image there.

Sonnet 103 Your own glass shows YOU when you look in it 

If Mr W.H. looked in the mirror his TRUE reflection Mr H.W. would be staring back at him. 

67: Was Thomas Thorpe involved with both Shakespeare and Barnfield's sequence ?

In Cynthia  a  very clumsy poem  appears in the introduction that praises Barnfield's work it is signed T.T.  A number of Barnfield scholars are most suspicious that this person was Thomas Thorpe.When we consider that Thorpe's function was to act as a promoter of literature rather than a publisher as such this could definitely be correct.

Also the clumsy verses are very reminiscent of Thorpe' s bombastic writing style. We are now faced with a most  intriguing possibility did the two rival poets have the same promoter ????  was he fully aware of who both Shakespeare and Barnfield were writing about ? . In Cynthia Barnfield uses the device of a mirror to reveal his love to Ganymede in reversing Wriothesley's initials was Thorpe also  inviting us to use a mirror to uncover the real identity of Shakespeare's Fair Youth ?

Rose and Lily = Wriothesley.

68:Rose and Lily = Wriothesley

Shakespeare was a master punner and he is also indirectly naming the Fair Youth through the medium of puns.

There is significant debate as to the exact pronunciation of the name Wriothesley some believe it should be pronounced Rizley and others Roseley.

No matter which is correct we observe that Shakespeare keeps referring to The Fair Youth as a Rose and often links him to both a Rose and a Lily.

Red and white were Elizabethan motifs for love Red meant love and white virtue , Shakespeare is employing this colour code but he is also using Rose Lily as a homophone for Wriothesley.


The emblem for the town of Southampton is a red rose it is through the language of flowers that Shakespeare is revealing who the Fair Youth is.

69: Rosalind.

In sonnet 1 Shakespeare directly links The Fair Youth to Narcissus but also calls him *beauty's Rose". The Fair Youth is consistently linked to a rose.

Beauty's Rose in Latin translates to Rosalind.

In the play As you like it a sexually ambiguous character  called Rosalind makes an appearance. This person has a male persona called Ganymede and a female persona called Rosalind. At the end of the play Rosalind reveals herself to be a man . This is a real hint that the character Rosalind is a cross dressing bisexual.

This  newly discovered portrait  is believed to be of Henry Wriothsley dressed as a woman , look at the hands, face shape hairline and eyes.

Wriothesley was a known bisexual this may well be evidence that he was also a cross dresser. The name Rosalind may have been the name that people close to him  gave his  female persona.The Fair Youth of the sonnets is described as being an effeminate bisexual. 

70: Sonnet 17.

The Shakespearean scholar Ian Steere has recently revealed the hidden encryption that exists in Sonnet 17 a sonnet specifically adressed to The Fair Youth.

The encryption is seen in the final couplet of the sonnet.

But were some child of yours alive that time

You should live twice in it and in my rhyme. 


Encryptions  and anagrams within verse was a known device employed by Elizabethan poets

The odds of the very unusual surname of Wriothesley  being randomly formed in the final couplet of a sonnet specifically written to The Fair Youth were calculated at 20,000 to one.

Shakespeare in his dedication of Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece specifically states his deep friendship ongoing allegiance and love of Henry Wriothesley.

Henry Wriothesley qualifies in every way as being The Fair Youth.

Willobie His Avisa specifically mentions Shakespeare's most recent work (Rape of Lucrece) and links W.S. and H.W to the same woman at exactly the correct time frame for H.W. and W.S. to indeed be Henry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare.

At the end of the day Henry Wriothesley was the ONLY person that Shakespeare ever dedicated anything to, these dedications reveal a close friendship and Shakespeare openly states in these dedications that his love for Henry Wriothesley is without end .

This is clearly a reiteration of the narrative found within the sonnets and it is not a coincidence that the known historical  Henry Wriothe

71: One and the same.

The well known themes of the sonnets - a love triangle between an older poet , a young man and , an older and sexually aggressive adulteress , syphilis , sexual jealousy and frustration and a musical and alluring but corrupted muse are all strongly echoed in Willobie His Avisa.

The reason why the text of Shakespeare's sonnets and Willobie His Avisa reflect each other is because both texts are describing the same events.


The only difference is that the love triangle of Willobie His Avisa  and The Affectionate Shepherd has been written from The Rival Poet's frame of reference..


.Many researchers accept as an article of faith that the publication of Shakespeare's sonnets was unauthorized I disagree and think Shakespeare certainly was personally involved in the publication of his own sonnets.

Thorpe was a respected publisher and Shakespeare made no public complaint following the publication of his sonnets neither did he make any attempt to  either buy them back or have them withdrawn as the personal playwright to King James he would have been in the position to do so.

So if Shakespeare was a willing participant in the publication of his sonnets then it is important to try to understand what his motivations may have been in publishing the sonnets, before we do this we first need to understand the dedication itself.

The dedication appears unusual because it has been written in the third person and it is unclear who has actually written the dedication and to whom it is referring.

To my way of thinking this dedication has been carefully crafted and the most important aspect of the dedication is that NO ONE is formally or personally  dedicating ANYTHING to ANYONE.Shakespeare is acknowledged as being the author of the sonnets but it is observed that Shakespeare himself is not making a formal or personal dedication .

The reason why the dedication has been written like this is that in publishing such suggestive sonnets  Shakespeare was taking a  very real gamble that easily could have backfired and both Shakespeare and  The Fair Youth needed to have  a fall back position in case the publication led to serious repercussions.

If any scandal erupted following the publication of The sonnets Shakespeare would be in a position to argue that he had not personally dedicated anything to anybody and would also be able to argue that Mr W.H. was not an aristocrat. If Shakespeare's own sexuality was called into question Shakespeare would also be able to argue that although his sonnets do show his love for a Fair Youth he is stating that he cannot be the lover of The Fair Youth and that he is  actually encouraging the Fair Youth to start showing an interest in women.

If Shakespeare willingly published these sonnets then he was indeed taking a risk but when we look at the situation carefully we can see that he  actually  has all bases covered . Shakespeare was a shrewd businessman with a good understanding of the law he would have known what he  could and could not get away with  .

We shall now carefully study the format and wording of this dedication.The dedication is written in capitals with separate words being separated with spacing dots this was known as Roman lettering and is clearly intended to emulate the Roman style of script that was en scribed into Roman monuments the spelling of the word only as onlie is archaic and serves to emphasize the allusions to classical antiquity that are being made in this dedication. ( Although notable writers especially Philip Sidney in his defense of poetry  often spelled only in this fashion).

The reason that Roman lettering has been employed is to reiterate the concept that is mentioned within the sonnets themselves that they will become the immortal monument for the Fair Youth, and that they will become a monument that will be every bit as immortal as any of the monuments that have survived from antiquity.

The dedication is signed T.T. the insinuation is that the dedication has been written by Thomas Thorpe  the publisher of the sonnets . This may well be correct, Shakespeare may have permitted Thorpe to physically write the dedication but I strongly believe that Shakespeare himself had the final say in exactly what the dedication said. Ultimately I think the dedication was a joint effort between Thorpe and Shakespeare.

The dedication states that Mr W.H. is the only begetter (Male parent) of the sonnets. This again is an allusion to the text of the sonnets.

In the procreation sonnets Shakespeare is trying to persuade The Fair Youth to marry and have children and so ensure his immortality through a living lineage.

It becomes clear that The Fair Youth isn't going to do this and so Shakespeare changes tack and then states that it will be through his sonnets that The Fair Youth shall obtain immortality.

So the sonnets become "The children " of The Fair Youth and they will become the vehicle that will confer immortality onto The Fair Youth.

The Fair youth is the father (begetter)  and the ensuing sonnets are his brood.

This terminology was used by John Weever in 1599 in a poem specifically dedicated to Shakespeare called  Ad Guglielmum Shakespeare .

In this poem Weever specifically calls Shakespeare's poems and plays his children and  admonishes Shakespeare to beget more.

Proud lust stung Tarquin seeking still to prove her

Romeo Richard more whose names I know not

Their sugared tounges and power attractive beauty

Say that they are saints , although saints they show not

For thousands vows to them subjective duty

They burn in love thy children, Shakespeare het them

Go woo thy muse more nymphish brood beget them.

Whether this poem is really praising Shakespeare or not ( I suspect that it is actually a veiled insult) is unimportant , what does matter is that Weever is using the same type of terminology that is seen in the dedication i.e. that Shakespeare's works will become immortal and that he is their begetter and that they are his children. 

The dedication of the sonnets is implying a very similar thing- that The Fair Youth is the begetter ( father) (The Muse) of the sonnets ( that have been written by Shakespeare) and that these sonnets  will deliver the immortality that Shakespeare promises the Fair Youth.

The term ever.living poet has  created some confusion in certain circles with some researchers believing that the term implies that Shakespeare is dead. 

I disagree I think it is again  simply reiterating  the text  and intentions of the sonnets. In sonnet 19 Shakespeare writes the following

Yet do thy worst old time ; despite thy wrong

My love shall in my verse ever live young. 

The sonnets promise to confer immortality onto two people ,  1:The Fair Youth and 2: The Poet William Shakespeare himself. 

The dedication echoes these sentiments and (rather arrogantly ) states that Shakespeare is already an immortal poet and that in formally publishing the sonnets he will formally deliver on the immortality that he has already promised The Fair Youth.

Few researchers have made any comment on the  arrogant tenure of this dedication  , Shakespeare was fundamentally known as  a successful populist playwright but other than two  lurid long poems  he had no substantial  body of poetry to substantiate the grandiose claim that he was an immortal poet.

Did Shakespeare or Thorpe  think that simply because  Shakespeare had written some successful plays that he could make a seamless transition from being a populist playwright to becoming a serious and immortal  poet who was of such stature that anyone he wrote about would instantly become immortal ?. Did they think the reading public would overnight accept and   universally acknowledge Shakespeare  as such ?

Did Shakespeare and Thorpe really believe that the publication of a

 sonnet sequence would overnight transform Shakespeare into the next Philip Sidney ? 

I think the appellation of  Shakespeare as already being  universally accepted as being  an immortal poet was in many ways a ploy to help make the book more marketable. But I also think that DID consider himself to be a brilliant poet , and he boasts as much in his sonnets,As we shall see the release of the sonnets under-whelmed everyone and Shakespeare was in for a serious reality check...  

72: The Adventurer sets forth  ...


In the dedication Thorpe is acting as the mouth piece for Shakespeare and it is Thorpe who on Shakespeare's behalf is wishing the begetter of the sonnets Mr W.H. all happiness promising him immortality and wishing the adventurer good luck in setting forth.

To understand the phrase adventurer we need to see it within the context of its times.

The sonnets were released 20th May 1609 , however the single most  important event of the year 1609 was the launch of a fleet of seven ships by the Virginia company this was a major attempt to bolster the flagging American  settlement of  Jamestown in Virginia .

Jamestown had been established in 1607 by the Virginia company but had been plagued with problems the voyage of 1609 was intended to replenish the settlement with man power and supplies so that the settlement would start to return profits.

Henry Wriothesley was heavily involved with the Virginia company and was a director and a major shareholder.

In order for the capital required for this adventure to be raised the company had to sell shares to the public and embarked on a massive publicity campaign . A quasi religious fervour surrounded the full project and a major media blitz whipped up excitement .

The full undertaking was basically sold as a" get rich quick" once in a lifetime type of opportunity  the project was endorsed (although not funded ) by King James  and the project became one of national significance and it succeeded in  obtaining the necessary funding.

The fleet consisted of seven ships the flagship of this fleet was known as The Sea Venture or SeaAdventure and 600 new settlers were transported they were collectively known as Adventurers . This fleet led by the Sea Venture set forth from Plymouth on June 2nd 1609.

We notice two things ,1: the release of the sonnets has been timed to coincide with the imminent departure of The Sea Venture. (only tens days separated the publication of the sonnets and the departure of The Seaventure).

 2: The sonnet's dedication is wishing the Adventurer good fortune in setting forth ALL readers of 1609 would associate the word Adventurer with this project. Thorpe was known to make puns and he is making one here  on setting forth. Setting forth could mean both the publication of a book and also the start of an adventure. The pun is that The everliving Poet ( Shakespeare) is wishing the Adventurer ( Wriothesley) well as they both set forth on their respective ventures. Wriothesley is setting forth on an adventure that he hopes will immortalize himself with fame. Shakespeare is setting forth his sonnets that he thinks will immortalize Wriothesley through poetry.

Shakespeare was known to have been a most astute businessman and in all forms of business TIMING is a critical factor.

I see a remarkable symmetry between 1593-4 and 1609 during both times Henry Wriothesley stood on the threshold of greatness.

In 1594 he was about to turn 21 and gain full control over his families fortune , it was William Shakespeare who was making a concerted attempt to secure his patronage BEFORE he attained his full wealth.

In 1609 as one of the major shareholders of The  Virginia Company Wriothesley again stood ( Should the project succeed ) on the threshold of unlimited wealth and power. If the Adventurers did indeed return the gold that they were promising then Wriothesley would become as wealthy as a king.

An intriguing possibility now presents itself was Shakespeare dissatisfied with his patronage by King James and was he now making a second bid for patronage under Henry Wriothesley ?

Wriothesley was known to be generous if he became extraordinarily wealthy and powerful then he could become a most useful friend for Shakespeare to have . This is what I think Shakespeare's strategy was , Shakespeare ultimately thought of himself as  a serious poet and wanted to be seen as such he also wanted personal  wealth and immortality. 

He could see that should Wriothesley succeed in his adventure  and if he could get into Wriothesley's good graces then all of his dreams could become reality , and he could again become the personal poet of England's new richest man.

Shakespeare had written the sonnets back in 1592-4 and had sat on them possibly revising them and waiting for the right time to release them he would have been fully aware that the release of such sonnets could be a career and reputation  destroying moment.

Barnfield was the only other Elizabethan writer who openly attached his name to homoerotic verse it effectively ended his career.

Shakespeare would have known that he had to be very secure in his own career before he attempted the samething.

1609 was the ideal time to act , the sonnets reconfirm Shakespeare's love for and allegiance  to Wriothesley and also appeal to Wriothesley's own desire for fame and immortality - these were factors that were known to motivate Henry Wriothesley. 

In releasing the sonnets Shakespeare was taking a huge risk that could potentially have ruined his career but the stakes

were worth it and this is why the attempt was made.

73...And hits The Tempest

What occurred next was  an irony that even Shakespeare couldn't have written. Both Wriothesley's and Shakespeare's adventures suffered their own personal shipwrecks .

The Sea Venture reached Bermuda then ran into a hurricane and was wrecked on its maiden voyage , the full adventure did not return the overnight riches that it had promised . The full adventure was effectively a failure and was a severe setback to both Wriothesley who would have lost  both money and prestige in this speculative investment and the Virginia company.

Shakespeare's sonnets struck a shipwreck of their own , the sonnets had been released at a time when sonnets were largely out of fashion no one thought that these very veiled and highly personal sonnets were works of genius and neither was Shakespeare recognised as being the next Philip Sidney . The release of Shakespeare's Sonnets scarcely caused a ripple in the literary scene. 

I suspect that this would have been a severe blow to Shakespeare's ego.

The irony of the full situation is that both ventures WOULD ultimately succeed in what they set out to do.

The colonization of America was eventually successful and Shakespeare's sonnets did ultimately make him immortal but neither Shakespeare or Wriothesley saw these events come to fruition in their own lifetimes.

In his return to the theatre Shakespeare wrote the tempest which again alludes to the shipwreck of The Sea Venture . It is a very different Shakespeare who is writing now and at the end of the play he physically asks for the audience to applaud .

This is highly suggestive of a writer who had lost his confidence in his own ability. In his own lifetime Shakespeare had seen his sonnets - poetry that he clearly believed to be immortal suffer the most ignominious fate of all - indifference and oblivion.

Shakespeare would have surveyed the magnificent shipwreck that his sonnets represented.

He would have known that ultimately he had failed , he had failed both in his bid to become an immortal poet but also he had personally failed The Fair Youth because he had not been able to deliver on the immortality that he had so boldly promised , the final curtain was now rapidly falling on the career of William Shakespeare .

Shortly after this debacle  Shakespeare went into semi retirement and retreated to Stratford if he wrote any further it was always in collaboration with other writers.

In his life Shakespeare had known both the highest peaks and the lowest troughs but his struggle was now over and it would ultimately be history who would judge him.

  74: 1605  The Masque of Blackness The Dark Lady Performs...

Fate and irony were toying with  Shakespeare . Shakespeare had secured patronage under King James but James quickly lost interest in the theater, public taste was also drifting away from plays and Masques were becoming more popular. Ben Jonson outshone  Shakespeare in this in this genre.

In his sonnets Shakespeare had given Henry Wriothesley the persona of day and Penelope Rich the persona of night and consequently he depicted her as an entirely black woman.

In 1605 Shakespeare's friend Ben Jonson  wrote the vastly successful masque- The Masque of Blackness . Shakespeare would unquestionably have seen this performance.This Masque celebrated black as the new form of beauty and the performers were disguised as African women.

Penelope Rich was a performer in this Masque and she was covered from head to toe with lamp black. Sidney had already celebrated Stella ( Penelope Rich ) as the woman who made black the new form of beauty  but In this ironic twist of fate Shakespeare would have seen his Dark Lady  literally become a black woman. This was the second time Penelope Rich was formally and  paradoxically linked to blackness. 

75: Sonnet 107 and the dating


Sonnet 107 has long been forwarded as a dating sonnet because it appears to be describing the death of Queen Elizabeth , the ascention of King James  and the release of Henry Wriothesley from the tower of London these events all occured in 1603 .

If we take The Fair Youth to be Henry Wriothesley then this is rather problematic because it insinuates that the sonnets have been written over an extended timeframe from Shakespeare's first meeting with the Fair Youth to over a decade later . If this was the case then significant questions arise.

Over that timeframe  Wriothesley married and became a father twice but despite Shakespeare's encouragement to the Fair Youth to marry and have children he gives no indication in the sonnets that this has taken place.

Also Francis Meres tells us that by 1598 Shakespeare's sonnets were already in circulation in manuscript form that would strongly suggest that most if not all of the events that are described in the sonnets had already taken place prior to 1598.

In 1599 two of the Dark Lady sonnets appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim , this also has to mean that the events that surrounded The Dark Lady predate 1599, we notice that sonnet 107 appears before The Dark Lady sequence so if it is referring to events of 1693 then the sonnets are significantly out of order.

We would also have to question that if the  sequence of the sonnets was as out of order as this then  are they  even referring to the same people?

Some Scholars got around this problem by suggesting two separate Fair Youths but this is problematic because the dedication states that only one Fair youth has been the father of all the sonnets. Others have suggested two Dark ladies.

Others have suggested the Fair Youth is William Herbert, this is even more problematic because it means we have to move into a timeframe away from 1593-4 ( This is the only timeframe where some supportive evidence that Shakespeare and Wriothesley were in a triangular relationship exists)  and into a timeframe which has no supportive evidence  for such a concept.

The alluring solution to these problems is to consider the possibility that sonnet 107 is not referring to Queen Elizabeth's death.

If we take this approach then we can move the full sonnet sequence back into what I believe to be the correct timeframe which is 1592-1594. If we do this we can also demonstrate ( as we shall see ) that the sonnets actually are in their correct order .

In reading Shakespeare's sonnets  I believe  that it is the  THEMES and not DETAILS  that are the most important.

Shakespeare was very  unusual in both his use of words and his syntax and  could be very elliptical, for this reason it is of paramount importance to identify the theme of the sonnet  and keep returing to it rather than attempting to link details within the sonnet to specific historical events.

If we can understand the theme of a Shakespearean sonnet I think we can understand its full meaning.

Using this concept we shall attempt a reading of sonnet 107.

What we notice about sonnet 107 is that its tone is quite defiant also its theme is of the immortality of Shakespeare's love for the Fair youth , we also need to look at the sonnet in the context of the full body of the work.The sonnet is one of a cluster that represent a reaffirmation of Shakespeare's love for the Fair Youth it comes after a quarrel over the Dark Lady and also after The Fair Youth has been temporarily swayed by the Rival Poet  so we can appreciate that it is really a poem of reconciliation, this is really all we need to understand the full sonnet.

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,

 Shakespeare tells us what his fears are , his greatest fear is time , that time will end all things and make all things mortal that time will make mortal and consequently end his love for The Fair Youth .

Can yet the lease of my true love control

Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.

What Shakespeare is saying here is that despite his own fears and whatever the world may predict about the duration ( lease) of his relationship with The Fair Youth neither can or will end it because his love for The Fair Youth is immortal - it shall not be forfeited to a confined doom  - an elliptical way of stating that his love will not live and die with him rather it shall be immortal.

No one and nothing can end this love because it is immortal.

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured

And sad augers mock their own passage,

Incertainties now crown themselves assured

And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Shakespeare now reiterates his earlier point of immortality 

 He uses the image of the moon that appears to be mortal and die in an eclipse in antiquity this was seen as a dire omen and soothsayers made many extreme and pessimistic  predictions.

But Shakespeare states that despite all dire predictions to the contrary the moon has endured- SURVIVED the eclipse and all doomsday predictions have been ill founded and that an era of endless peace unfolds.

Queen Elizabeth was sometimes linked to the Moon and Shakespeare DOES refer to the moon as being female however in doing so  it DOES NOT necessarily mean that Shakespeare is referring to Queen Elizabeth in this sonnet.

 The moon is personified as a female because the moon was classically described as being a feminine entity, i.e. Selene ,Diana, Phoebe  - all Moon Goddess. In  sonnet 33 Shakespeare follows classical convention and  describes the Sun as being a male entity "With ugly wrack on his celestial face and from the  forlorn world his visage hide."

  In sonnet 107 he again  is  following classical convention and describes the Moon as being a female entity.

What Shakespeare is doing here is sending his competitors and rivals for The Fair Youth's affection a message , that yes a falling out between himself and the Fair Youth DID occur  and that many people (including Shakespeare himself) did think that  it would end their friendship but they have reconciled and resolved their differences -incertainties now crown themselves assured and that an era of endless peace and love is assured for the poet and his Fair Youth. The vague allusion to a coronation of a new age could simply be stating that after their quarrel Shakespeare and The Fair Youth have made a new start.

The symbolism of the moon is to indicate that something that is immortal ( The moon ) can give the appearance of being mortal ( during an eclipse) and that many people will predict the end but they will be disproven as the moon endures and once again emerges from its eclipse.

Shakespeare is likening his  love and friendship with The Fair Youth to the moon - it may pass through difficult phases  and to outside observers appear to be over but it is not.

Because Shakespeare's relationship with The Fair Youth is golden it is immortal.

I pick the author of Willobie his Avisa as being the Rival poet of Shakespeares sonnets , the author of Willobie His Avisa is making much milage of the instability of the friendship of The Fair Youth ( Henry Wriothsely ) and W.S. ( William Shakespeare) their common interest in the same woman Avisa ( Penelope Rich).

With this sonnet Shakespeare is defiantly telling The Rival Poet ( Richard Barnfield) that all is now well between himself and Wriothesley and that their relationship is at a new beginning.

Once Shakespeare reaffirms his love of The Fair Youth he then returns to his familiar promise of offering The Fair Youth immortality through his verse.

And thou in this shalt find thy monument

When tyrant's crests and tombs of brass are spent.

Shakespeare promises The Fair Youth a monument that will be more enduring than the legacy of either tyrants or venerated leaders.

It is important to realise that the poem is stating that the moon has  SURVIVED its eclipse . Therefore the poem is NOT referring to the death of Queen Elizabeth, Wriothesley was not released until AFTER the death of Queen Elizabeth, therefore the poem is NOT referring to his release nor can  it  be referring to the coronation of King James.

To sum up my impression of this sonnet is that it is a statement of defiance and has a slightly mocking tenure , The statement that it is making is " No matter what anyone says my friendship with The Fair Youth is still strong , look at people who predicted the end of the world after an eclipse, my friendship with The Fair Youth is immortal and I am the poet who shall make him immortal". If we interpret the sonnet in this way then we can see that the entire sonnet has nothing whatsoever to do with Queen Elizabeth , The ascention of King James or The imprisonment and release of Henry Wriothesley.

If we accept this interpretation of the sonnet then we have no problem fitting all of the sonnets into the timeframe spanning between 1592 and 1594 and I am very certain that this is the timeframe that all of the sonnets are referring to.

76: Carry the canopy.

Some commentators have raised the possibility from sonnet 125 where Shakespeare states "Were it aught to me I bore the canopy " that he is referring to the death of Queen Elizabeth or that Shakespeare was involved in a regal procession again I strongly disagree- first of all this sonnet is about The Fair Youth and not a member of the Royal Family. I think once again Shakespeare is speaking figuratively rather than literally, We need to remember that elsewhere Shakespeare does refer to The Fair Youth in Regal terms, in the sonnet 57 Shakespeare specifically calls The Fair Youth "My sovereign and describes himself as being the subject/ slave of the Fair Youth" The Fair Youth is not really a king Shakespeare is simply using a figure of speech .

To understand this phrase we need to look at the theme of the sonnet rather than try to analyse details in isolation..

If we refer back to the THEME of this sonnet we understand that in this sonnet Shakespeare is very angry and disillusioned with The Fair Youth and his behaviour, and he is  bitterly stating that  that the canopy of praise/ worship that Shakespeare carried - wrote for the Fair Youth and the monuments (verse) that he wrote for The Fair Youth were never sincere and actually meant nothing to him .

In this sonnet Shakespeare is angry and  stating that The Fair Youth  is no longer a king worthy of praise but has become a Judas like figure (suborn'd informer) who Shakespeare no longer respects and will no longer be a subject to.

A number of  Shakespearean scholars already date the sonnets to 1592 - 1594 and I entirely agree.

The next question that now arises is are the sonnets in their correct order ?

77: Are the sonnets in the correct

 order ?

Shakespeare's sonnets are unusual for an Elizabethan sonnet sequence in the sense that the sequence of the narrative is difficult to determine and seem to end abruptly and we are not told how any of the narratives finish , we are not told what happens to The Fair Youth , or to The Dark Lady or to The poet himself  the fact that the narrative remains unresolved leads me to believe that  rather than describing a decade long timeframe the sonnets represent a slice of time that occurred over three years and are a  firsthand   record of events that  resolved themselves after the final sonnet had been written .

Many arguments have raged as to whether or not the sonnets are in their correct sequence and if so then what precisely is the narrative that they are describing ?

We notice that the sonnets have been thematically grouped but have they  been chronologically grouped also ?

My belief is that the sonnets ARE in the order that Shakespeare intended for them to be in and that the thematic grouping of these sonnets  is more important than the chronological grouping but having said this  the narrative actually does run in a logical and sequential fashion.

When we read the sonnets a narrative does emerge but it seems somewhat jumbled and entirely unresolved.

The narrative seems to run as follows

1 The Poet introduces us to The Fair Youth

2 The Poet tries to persuade The Fair Youth to marry and have children.

3 Instead The Poet seems to fall in love with The Fair Youth.

4 Ironically The Fair Youth does finally take an interest in women but the woman he takes an interest in is a woman that The poet is himself in love with

5 There is a major falling out between The Poet and The Fair Youth.

6 The Poet and The Fair Youth reconcile their differences

6.5 The Fair Youth is the victem of slander ( Sonnet 70).

7 A Rival Poet briefly gets The Fair Youth's attention

8 Shakespeare triumphs over The Rival Poet

9 Mention is now made again of the love triangle

10 Shakespeare finishes the book with a series of sonnets that serve as a complaint against The Dark Lady

11 The baffling long poem A lover's complaint follows.

It is noted that one simple realization  can allow this full narrative  to run in an entirely logical sequence .

The one realization we need to make is that the love triangle (event number 4) - this is  love triangle that is resolved and the the Fair Youth and the poet reconcile , is a DIFFERENT event to the final love triangle which goes unresolved .

And that these two events are occurring at different times.

so  the narrative of the sonnets can now read

1 Shakespeare meets Fair Youth and urges him to procreate

2 Shakespeare falls in love with Fair Youth. Both Shakespeare and The Fair Youth appear to be bisexuals.

3 Ironically Fair Youth falls in love with Shakespeares love.

4 Argument between Shakespeare and Fair Youth

5 Reconciliation between Fair Youth and Shakespeare

5.5 The Fair Youth has been the target of Slander ( Sonnet 70)- Shakespeare also complains that he has been personally and publicly shamed ( I suspect Shakespeare is referring to the very public  libeling that both Shakespeare and in the form of Willobie His Avisa).

6 A Rival poet makes a bid for Fair Youth's patronage

7 Rival Poet unsuccessful Shakespeare reaffirms his love of Fair Youth

8 The Love triangle flares up again but this time it has been instigated by The Dark Lady .

9 Shakespeare angry at Fair Youth but more angry at The Dark Lady who he thinks is simply playing games with The Fair Youth's emotions. Shakespeare probably has siphilis and is  very close to a mental breakdown at this point.

10 Shakespeare finally gives up The Dark Lady but states that he will always love her.

11 The long poem A lover's Complaint follows, this represents the way that Shakespeare was able to "solve " the problem of his serious infatuation with The Dark Lady "Penelope Rich".

He poetically returns her to Arcadia where she will marry Pampilis ( Phuilip Sidney) by symbolically returning Stella to Astrophel Shakespeare was able to move forward with his life.

If we consider the sonnets from this perspective then we can see that the sonnets  are in perfect order to tell this story and that the long poem  A Lovers complaint has a direct bearing on the narrative of the sonnets.

The fact that the final relationship between The Fair Youth and The Dark lady is unresolved indicates that it is likely still occurring at the time that The Dark lady sonnets were written.

My unshakable belief is that the sonnets are describing events that occurred over  a three year timeframe between 1592 to 1594 that Shakespeare was personally involved with , and that not all of the events were resolved over the timeframe that Shakespeare documents.

There is no need to factor in The death of Queen Elizabeth , The Spanish Armada, The ascention of King James and The Gunpowder plot into this narrative and the reason why we don't need to factor in  these events and their diverse timeframes is because Shakespeare isn't referring to any of them.

Shakespeare's sonnets are not a political journal rather they represent a personal record of his love and turbulent relationship with  The Fair Youth  and The Dark Lady - nothing more, the only events that Shakespeare is alluding to are the ones that he was personally involved with.

Also that all of the sonnets  are in the order that Shakespeare intended.

78:Thou art covetous - why Penelope Rich was The Dark Lady.

We have a vivid first hand account of the  events of the love triangle from Shakespeare's point of view ( from the sonnets) and from the sonnets we can appreciate that The Fair Youth's experience of The Love Triangle would have been very similar to that of Shakespeare's with the exception that I suspect that The Fair Youth knew and interacted with the Aristocratic Dark Lady to a greater extent than Shakespeare did.

From Richard Barnfield's Affectionate Shepherd we can appreciate the love triangle from The Rival Poet's point of view.

So there is really only one viewpoint that is missing and that is that of The Dark Lady herself. Unfortunately Penelope Rich did not document this sequence of events so we can only speculate  on what her mindset and motivations may have been during this sequence of events.

Most researchers have simply speculated that The Dark Lady was a lascivious woman who was satisfying her carnal lust but I don't think that the situation was as straightforward as this.

Few researchers have even broached the question as to what exactly The Dark Lady was attempting to gain from a string of adulterous relationships.

I formally identify The Dark Lady as being the Essex circle member Lady Penelope Rich. Penelope Rich was the most celebrated beauty of her generation, she was in love with and in an adulterous relationship with the dashing military hero Charles Blount so what could a powerful aristocrat like Penelope Rich possibly hope to gain by entering into a string of relationships with a number of other men one of the ( William Shakespeare) - a commoner ?

My theory is that Penelope's full behaviour actually revolved around Charles Blount and that the full sequence of events that occurred was actually all about Charles Blount.

We need to consider Penelope's situation.

Penelope was trapped in an unhappy marriage with the awful Lord Rich and definitely wanted out from the marriage.

Penelope had known Charles Blount for a long time , genuinely loved him and did see him as the man to get her out of her marriage with Robert Rich.

Penelope wanted

1 : To escape her marriage.

2: For Charles Blount to marry her.

3: For Charles and herself to have a normal life , to have a family and for Charles to be PRESENT to support her.

Unfortunately none of these wishes were going to be easy to obtain.

Charles Blount clearly loved Penelope , however he was also a social climber and would have been fully aware that his reputation as an outstanding military hero would be severely tarnished should he be drawn into a relationship with a married woman.

If Charles was to formalise his relationship with Penelope , Penelope would need to be divorced from Lord Rich. Divorce in the Elizabethan era particularly amongst aristocrats was no easy matter , a divorce and remarriage would require consent from both the Queen and the church  and Robert Rich, this would have been a major and very public and difficult undertaking.

I speculate that while Charles Blount was having his affair with Penelope he had been making a number of promises , likely promising to marry her eventually , however in practice he was actually dragging his feet when it came to formalising their relationship.

The reality and downside of a relationship with Charles Blount as Penelope would have quickly discovered was that he was virtually never at home.

Charles Blount was a man of action who hated court intrigue, and often excused himself to get involved with protracted military campaigns.

Blount was out of the country for almost all of the early 1590's during this time unhappy Penelope must have been suffering from loneliness and isolation.

Penelope had first met Charles Blount in 1583 and a number of historians believe that their relationship actually started then.

If this was the case then by 1593 Penelope would have been trapped in an unhappy marriage for over a decade , she was now in her thirties, (this was considered middle age for an era which had a life expectancy of just 42 years).

She had been in an on again -off again type relationship with Charles Blount which had been interrupted by very frequent and long absences by Blount.

I am certain that by 1593 Penelope's patience with the full situation was wearing very thin, she would have been wanting more than just promises from Charles Blount  and would have wanted him to take the relationship to the next level and officially formalise it.

Blount the social climber was largely a self made man and was aware that this would require both himself and Penelope to state in public that they were adulterers.

This action alone could easily ruin his social standing and reputation  and even lead to imprisonment especially when we consider that Blount was a favorite of Elizabeth and that Elizabeth took a particularly hard line on adultery.

By taking this course of action Blount could actually lose everything.

My speculation is that by 1592-1593 after being in a decade of a covetous relationship that actually only  benefited Charles Blount and not Penelope , the relationship was at crisis point.

After ten years Penelope had nothing tangible she wasn't getting any younger , she was still trapped in a marriage with  a man that she hated and had nothing in common with. Penelope had actually had a child to Charles Blount who was born in 1592 but since the child was born out of wedlock the child could not be an heir to Charles Blount.

Whilst Charles Blount was doing exactly what he wanted she was completely trapped and actually had few real options.

 At this point Penelope was likely pressuring Charles to marry her but we notice that in early 1593 Blount stole away to Brittany to join Jim Norrey's campaign.

This was NOT an official posting and there was no need for him to have gone.

Penelope would have been fearful that this absence would extend into yet another campaign that lasted for years .

Penelope would have been enraged and frustrated and felt.

that Charles was not listening to her.

At this point  Penelope finally snapped.No woman( apart from the Queen ) had been more idealized than Penelope and she would have been fully aware of the major power that she held over men.

Penelope is at this point was using her physical attractiveness to seduce a number of men . She was playing this card not because she was particularly interested in any of them but because it was her way of asserting her own power in the relationship and in the process was sending  Charles Blount a message.

The message was " You want to do your own thing  ? Fine well I'll do mine and with  whoever I want".

In June 27th 1593 Thomas Nashe dedicated his book The Unfortunate Traveller to Henry Wriothesley.

In the dedication Nashe makes an ironic comment and calls Wriothesley A dear lover and cherisher you are  as well of the LOVERS of the poets as well as the poets themselves.This is an indication that whatever event that involved Wriothesley that Nashe is slyly referring to here must have occurred prior to June 27th 1593.

We know that Charles Blount was out of the country in this time frame so the time frame would be entirely possible for Penelope Rich.

The long time rival of Thomas Nashe , Gabrial Harvey also appeared to know that something was afoot because on 27th April 1593 in his fatous book Pierces Supererogation he gloats to Thomas Nashe   that he knows of a RICH mummer ( a mummer is an actor) who he could if he chose to , unmask and that the revelation could potentially make him very wealthy.

It is very significant that Harvey is associating the word RICH with the actor in question and I think a pun is being made on Penelope Rich's name.

We also have to remember that Gabrial Harvey was of higher social standing than Thomas Nashe , Nashe may have heard second hand about Wriothesley's escapades but may not have known the full story .

Gabrial Harvey I suspect knew who all the protagonists were and this explains why he is gloating to Thomas Nashe.

This circumstantial evidence is placing a lovetriangle that involved Henry Wriothesley, William Shakespeare and Penelope Rich as occurring in early 1593  this time frame is absolutely possible for all three participants who are effectively single at the time , critically through his dedications to Henry Wriothesley ( Venus and Adonis 18th April 1593) we can link Shakespeare to Henry Wriothesley at this time.

As I have previously mentioned I believe that the narrative of the sonnets is describing two love triangles that involved the same people but that occurred at different times.

The FIRST  love triangle  involved William Shakespeare , Penelope Rich and Henry Wriothesley and it occurred in early 1593. The events of this first love triangle were ended by Charles Blount's return to England.

On 30th June 1593  Queen Elizabeth wrote to Sir Thomas Shirley the treasurer at war demanding that Charles Blount return to England.

On His return to England  Elizabeth personally rebuked Blount for taking leave without absence and forced him to lodge in Whitehall.

It is during this time that I suspect Shakespeare amended his relationship with Wriothesley and also that Penelope and Charles Blount started to renew their ties.

However fate took an unexpected turn, on 14th December 1593 Henry Radcliffe  the fourth Earl of Sussex and captain of Portsmouth fell ill and died.

Elizabeth had always been concerned about Pourtsmouth because she thought that it was the Achiles heel  of England and was most concerned that a Catholic conspiracy would be launched from there.

Following Radcliffe's death Elizabeth immediately posted Blount  to take his place and strengthen the coastal fortifications of Portsmouth.

On 16th December Charles Blount wrote to Robert Cecil informing him that he was about to depart but confessed that both his head and his HEART were greatly troubled.

Blount arrived in Porstmouth on Dec 20th 1593 and remained there for all of 1594 after which he was replaced in 1595 by Sir Benjamin Barry.

The fact that Blount was again now off the scene for yet another year must have come as a severe blow to Penelope who as a married woman couldn't just follow him.

She would have seen that her dream of a formal relationship with Charles Blount had yet again been put on hold.


It is at this point that I suspect that the SECOND phase of the love triangle takes place.

Penelope was again in a crisis in 1594 and was again pressurizing Charles Blount , she became involved in the illegal sheltering of the Jesuit Father John Gerrard who almost succeeded in converting her to Catholicism . Gerrard at this time had dealings with both Penelope and Charles , he was unimpressed with Charles calling him a cunning heretic.

It was at this time that Penelope wrote to Charles telling him that their relationship was over, that she was converting to Catholicism and that he should marry another woman.

This is clearly Penelope  trying to exert her power over Charles , I think that she backed this threat up by turning her attentions again to her friends in The Essex circle and started again flirting with Henry Wriothesley.

She knew that news of this flirtation would filter back to Charles Blount and would expedite his permanent return.

It is most revealing that the two books about the love triangle ( Shakespeare's sonnets , and The Affectionate Shepherd ) BOTH complain that an unchaste woman is simply stringing along a Fair Youth but has not real interest in him .

Barnfield in The Affectionate Shepherd specifically warns Ganymede ( Henry Wriothesley) that  unchaste beautiful Queen Guendolen (Penelope Rich ) loves another man above him and is not really in love with Ganymede but is simply working to her own agenda. In his complaint towards The Dark Lady Shakespeare is angry with her and implores her to release the emotional hold she has over the Fair Youth because he too thinks that she is working to her own agenda.

At the end of the day I don't think that The Dark Lads's actions were simply to satisfy her libido but were actually caused by a growing sense of desperation, I do think that Penelope genuinely loved Charles but was simply caught in an impossible situation we also need to consider the possibility that Charles himself might not have been a totally virtuous person he was  a handsome wealthy man who was constantly away and had ample opportunity to be seeing other women.

Penelope would have been aghast to see the hateful libel Willobie his Avisa followed closely by the transparent Affectionate Shepherd both books were clearly attacking her and the second was cynically dedicated to her .

However in a perverse way  these libels were actually serving her own purpose because they were getting the attention of Charles Blount  and increasing the pressure on him to return to Penelope , Blount would have known exactly what both libels were intimating and he publicly complained following the publication of The Affectionate Shepherd.

I think that the love triangle that is described in Shakespeare's sonnets had two distinct phases an early physical phase and a rapid exchange of lovers that occurred in early 1593 followed by a a more prolonged wooing of Henry Wriothesley by Penelope Rich which occupied most of 1594 .

I think Shakespeare was simply at the right place at the right time to have met Penelope Rich at a vulnerable moment in her life and consequently got to briefly enjoy the most beautiful woman of his generation. Richard Barnfield is writing because he is in love with Henry Wriothesley and hates both Penelope Rich and William Shakespeare  and wants Wriothesley to disown both of these people.

At the end of the day I see Henry Willobie as simply being young and stupid but I see Richard Barnfield as being very bright and cynically manipulative.

If we consider that the events of the love triangle were all actually about Charles Blount then we can appreciate that Charles Blount acted as both the accelerator and brakes of the events .

Each time Charles Blount left the scene the events flared up each time he returned they stopped.

by late 1594 Charles Blount had managed to get out of his Portsmouth posting and was back in London and Penelope finally got her wish and they started openly living together.

79: How The love triangle resolved itself.

The love triangle resolved itself in the following way.

1: The Fair Youth ( Wriothesley) got over his serious infatuation with The Dark Lady ( Penelope Rich) and ended up having an affair with and ultimately marrying her cousin ( Elizabeth Vernon). Henry Wriothesley formally reneged on his marriage contract with Elizabeth Vernon . William Cecil immediately fined him four thousand pounds , wriothesley could not pay this immediately and had to borrow money to meet this cost at this point Wriothesley was technically insolvent and was in no position to be a literary patron to anyone.

He mended the rift between himself and Penelope and the two became firm friends and confidantes.

Wriothesley named his first daughter after Penelope and secretly married Penelope's cousin ( Elizabeth Vernon) at Leez Priory ( Penelope's residence).

Penelope ended her flirtation with Henry Wriothesley in late 1594 and by 1595 started to openly live with Charles Blount.

William Shakespeare could not count on the financial backing of the now bankrupt Henry Wriothesley the theatres reopened and he aligned himself with Lord Chamberlain's Men and returned to acting. He remained on good terms with Henry Wriothesley. He too was able to recover from his serious infatuation with Penelope Rich and eventually would return to his wife Anne Hathaway. On his death he was acknowledged as a capable playwright but his stature grew steeply after his death and he became known as the greatest writer who ever lived.

Richard Barnfield had revealed his real name in his book Cynthia , this contained yet more homoerotic verse directed at Wriothesley. Charles Blount had already been enraged by The Affectionate Shepherd , I suspect that after Barnfield broke his anonymous persona Charles Blount formally warned him to stop writing and we notice that following Cynthia Barnfield entirely disappears from the literary scene for the next three years. 

Barnfield failed in his bid to secure Wriothesley as a patron/lover and became an outcast incapable of securing patronage with any aristocrat.

His father disinherited him and his growing sense of desperation  anger and poverty is very evident in his later works.

He remained hateful and jealous  towards both Penelope Rich and William Shakespeare and continued to libel them both throughout his life.

The Passionate Pilgrim represents a libel engineered by Barnfield specifically looking to damage Shakespeare's growing reputation.

Richard Barnfield died in 1620.

80: Would Penelope have found Shakespeare attractive ?

It is uncertain precisely what Shakespeare looked like but most depictions show a rather plain looking person who was loosing his hair.

Shakespeare is known not to have attended a university or to have been in the  Aristocratic class and unlike Charles Blount he was not a dashing military hero.

If Shakespeare was to get the attention of an aristocrat like Penelope Rich then he must have had other attributes .

 I think that Shakespeare was lucky to happen to meet Penelope at a time when she was vulnerable, in her choice of men Penelope reveals that it was the dashing military types who got her attention .

However when we look at both Philip Sidney and Charles Blount we notice that the two had something else in common  Sidney was a renowned author and Charles Blount like Penelope was multi lingual and surprisingly bookish .

So we see that she WAS also attracted to literary men. We know that Penelope formed close friendships with a number of artistic people she formed friendships with Artists , poets , and muscians.

In 1589 the poet Henry Constable had joined the Essex circle -despite only having the social rank of a gentleman , he was a close friend to Penelope Rich and was obviously infatuated with her he wrote over twenty sonnets to her - incidentally Shakespeare's sonnets have been strongly influenced by both Sidney and Constable's work this should come as no surprise because all three were writing about the same woman.  .

Shakespeare was a brilliant and successful writer but he was also an actor  who had worked with the best actor of his generation ( Richard Burbage) this would suggest that his written charm and ability probably extended into his verbal ability.

I strongly suspect that when it suited him  Shakespeare could have been a very entertaining and amusing companion  .He also promised immortality ,and this was something that an Aristocrat couldn't just buy .

The libel Willobie his Avisa and The Parnassus plays both depict Shakespeare as being a smooth talker capable of pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible Aristocrats. Henry Wriothesley being young sexually ambiguous and a social misfit  and potentially very wealthy would have been seen as an "easy mark " for a number of poets seeking a patron. Shakespeare would have known this , In sonnet 125 we get a glimpse of what Shakespeare's personality might actually have been like  in this sonnet Shakespeare disowns the Fair Youth and reveals that all his obsequious praise of The Fair Youth has always been insincere..

There may well have been some truth to this we should remember that Shakespeare would have had to have been a very skill full communicator in order to make himself marketable in the highly competitive endeavor of obtaining a wealthy aristocratic patron .


 Shakespeare may well have used a number of his sonnets to woo Penelope, he certainly has written  his Dark Lady sonnets to her and he may have used some of the other sonnets notably  sonnet 18 to woo both Henry Wriothesley and Penelope Rich.

All things considered I suspect that Shakespeare despite his low social status  just might have had enough qualities to briefly get Penelope Rich's attention.

We know that it was possible for  poets of lower social station to join the Essex circle and even become close friends with the aristocrats of The Essex circle including  Penelope Rich .

Henry Constable demonstrated this , however Penelope was still having marital relationships with her husband at the time that she befriended Henry Constable (1589 ) but in 1593 she was not.

Could commoners interact with aristocrats ? 

Despite the very real class divisions of Elizabethan England  It was not impossible for commoners with exceptional talent to befriend and fall in love with aristocrats. Shakespeare's contemporary Michael Drayton  was passionately in love with the married aristocrat Lady Anne Rainsford

Lady Anne Rainsford was the Idea of Draytons sonnet sequence . Drayton never went to university and came from a more humble background than Shakespeare but this did not stop him having a long and lingering  friendship with Lady Anne who he clearly loved.Drayton  frequently stayed with the Rainsfords at Clifton Chambers  and his friendship with Anne continued after her husbands death.

Drayton wasn't alone the poet Nicholas Bretton had a serious infatuation for  Mary Herbert The Countess of Pembroke and stayed at Wilton House . Aristocratic men were known to have had affairs with commoners  so  One needs to wonder whether or not the friendships between poets and Aristocratic women were always strictly platonic.


81:Charles Blount and Penelope Rich a fairy-tale romance ?

The romance between Charles Blount and Penelope Rich has always been presented as the relationship of two star-crossed but virtuous lovers who were ultimately willing to sacrifice everything for each other.

This may be true but I suspect that beneath this idealised and polished image there lay a more gritty reality .

There can be no doubt that Penelope and Charles had genuine love for each other however as previously explained both were in an impossible situation.

We also need to consider that not all of Charles and Penelope's contemporaries depicted their personalities in an overwhelming positive or even virtuous light.

Historians and the Elizabethans , tended to think that five of Penelope's children were illegitimate and normally state that her daughter Penelope (born in 1592) was the first of five children that she had to Charles Blount .

The problem with this is that in his will Charles Blount only acknowledged and made provisions for only three of these five children.

This opens a very real conundrum if these two earlier children were not Charles Blount's - then whose were they ?.

Were they Robert Rich's ? or was Penelope living up to her reputation of in chastity and did they belong to another lover ?The fact that Blount didn't acknowledge two  of these children who were born in a time frame when Penelope and Charles were lovers could be an indication that not everything was ideal between the two.

The date of birth of their first child is given as 1592 the child's name was Penelope and she was given the surname  Rich and was brought up with Rich's other children . But The next childen of Penelope and Charles was born from 1597 onwards this is well into the relationship of Charles and Penelope and it is unclear which one of their remaining four children Blount disowned but what it does indicate is that Charles and Penelope were not in a fairy-tale romance.

The Jesuit Father John Gerard lived in Essex between December 1591 and April 1594 and knew both Penelope and Charles and in his memoirs wrote about the two .

He was unimpressed with Charles Blount calling him a manipulative , cunning and immoral person who had been a long term lover of Penelope.

Gerard stated that all was not well in the relationship between Penelope and Charles and that Penelope was greatly troubled and had started to make confessions to him but had not revealed the full extent of the secrets that she was keeping . This is interesting because if Gerard already knew that she was having an affair with Charles Blount what were the OTHER secrets that she was still withholding ?

Gerard states that  Penelope was to convert to Catholicism and wrote to Charles telling him that their relationship was over.

Charles returned from London and talked Penelope out of the idea.

Gerard did not date this event but historians seem to think that it occurred early 1594.

I don't agree - Gerard is stating that Blount had come from London, Blount as we know was in Portsmouth not London in 1594.

In 1592 Blount was not in England and was in France until April 1593.

From April to December 1593 he WAS in London so I date the reconciliation between Penelope and Charles as occurring sometime between April and December 1593.

This is important what it is telling us is that Penelope and Charle's  relationship was at crisis point in 1593 and Penelope had actually called the relationship off in this year- this is THE SAME YEAR that I believe the first phase of the love triangle occurred ie early 1593 - the time frame is correct for this and indicates that Penelope might well NOT have been in a relationship with Charles Blount at this juncture and if this was the case then she was certainly available to have been a participant in The sonnet's love triangle.

 Despite her relationship with Charles Blount Penelope was rumored to have been involved with other men throughout her life , these rumors may or may not be true but Shakespeare describes The Dark Lady as being a promiscuous woman with a high libido , Shakespeare was a good judge of character perhaps this WAS the case for Penelope Rich.

King James described Penelope Rich as being

A fair woman with a black soul

we should compare this to Shakespeare's sonnet 131

"In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds"

The libel Willobie his Avisa and Shakespeare's sonnets both imply that Avisa/ The Dark Lady is syphilitic and also hint that Shakespeare has also contracted the disease.

This might be correct , Charles was constantly out of the country and visiting ports that were known dens of iniquity , soldiers were notorious for their philandering overseas , it is hard to believe that young Charles Blount would have not indulged in women for such a long time whilst most of his colleagues would have been.

Despite being a military hero Blount was constantly stating that he was unwell and he actually died at quite an early age . Blount is often quoted as dying from Lung cancer but his symptoms are not suggestive of Lung Cancer.  In 1603 Blount complained to Cecil that he was having severe and chronic headaches and thought he was seriously unwell. He was unwell in 1605 and in 1606 caught a lung infection and died.This doesn't sound like Lung cancer the  chronic headaches may have been a symptom of neuro-syphilis a complication of syphilis that often doesn't hit until the sufferer reaches their forties.   , We don't know the exact nature of his illness but in Elizabethans syphilis was rife throughout all  classes of society . If Blount was syphilitic  he  may have given  the disease to Penelope and in turn  she may have infected Shakespeare. Shakespeare does seem to suggest that the Dark Lady is carrying  Syphilis and Willobie His Avisa suggests the same thing.

82:Penelope Rich ,The hidden hand behind The Essex Rebellion ?

Penelope was a brilliant woman however there was a duality to her personality , Sidney describes Stella as an idealised woman however he also makes the remarks that she could be self willed and very proud stating that her heart was a citadel defended by pride and disdain. Willobie his Avisa describes Avisa as being a proud and imperious woman. Shakespeare bemoans The Dark Lady's foul pride , and Robert Devereux in his interrogation for the Essex rebellion stated that the controlling force behind the revolt had been Penelope's and that she was a very proud woman.

Penelope was incredibly headstrong and rebellious for a woman of her era and didn't follow any of societies norms she was very lucky not to have been executed for her leading role in The Essex Rebellion.

In all likelihood Blount would have been aghast at her anti authoritarian behavior but was probably under her domineering control . Blount was certainly complicit in The Essex rebellion  but was acting from afar and was attempting to liaise with King James . This was serious treason but Blount had always been a favorite of Elizabeth and he was never charged for his role in the rebellion..

Penelope ultimately was a woman who wielded huge power over ALL of the men that she met and knew how to manipulate them to further her own ends.

When we look carefully at Penelope Rich and her brother Robert Devereux  what we observe is that they both clearly wanted power .

It is doubtful  that either Robert or Penelope liked Queen Elizabeth  , and both had good reason not to , when both were still children Elizabeth commandeered their family seat - Chartley castle and turned it into a prison for Mary Queen of Scots .

The Devereux family had been wealthy but Elizabeth had effectively bankrupted them by by making them privately fund her expensive war in Ireland.

As early as 1589 Penelope and Robert Devereux had befriended the poet Henry Constable - constable was clearly completely under the spell of Penelope , Penelope used him as a go-between between herself and King James V1 of Scotland she wrote to James and got Constable to carry a miniature of herself to James. What she was trying to do was obtain the favour of James should her brother become King.

Robert Devereux , always played the gallant courtier and pretended to be in love with Elizabeth and played along with her childish games but all the while his eye was firmly fixated on the throne , the Cecils were fully aware of this and politically outmanoeuvred him by 1603 it was clear that Essex wasn't going to be king and that the Cecil faction had gained control. The other problem was James had an excellent claim to the throne and the Cecil faction had managed to get into his favour, therefore should James become King they would stay in power and Essex would find himself and his faction even more marginalized.

The only option for Essex was to wipe the slate clean and seize power.

Devereux probably  wanted to be King and if he had won he would have installed both himself and Penelope as co-rulers , he would have executed the Cecils and imprisoned Elizabeth in Chartley castle in exactly the same way that Elizabeth had imprisoned then executed Mary Queen of Scots.

Robert Devereux historically has always been blamed for the Essex Rebellion and was executed for treason but Penelope was fully complicit in this treason during Devereux's trial Devereux stated that Penelope was the force behind The revolt Penelope stated the same thing and I think that this WAS correct  and that Penelope Rich WAS the hidden hand behind the Essex Rebellion. During the rebellion Robert Devereux was being being typically bipolar and was on the brink of abandoning the full plot but Penelope was observed to be goading him on and chiding him for appearing as a coward before his supporters.

It is uncertain if Penelope was the real mastermind behind the Essex rebellion but there is no question that she was one of the leading conspirators. 

Ultimately It is unlikely that any of the Essex circle members ( except for Robert Rich ) were royalists and Shakespeare  probably wasn't  either . Chettle publicly chided Shakespeare for not writing any elegy after Queen Elizabeth's death.

At the end of the day Penelope was a woman who wanted power and knew how to get it Shakespeare was fully aware and didn't like the degree of power that The Dark Lady had over both himself and The Fair Youth but like all the other men in Penelope Rich's circle they were bent to her will.

Penelope had many great qualities and was capable of genuine compassion but she was also the most controversial woman of the Elizabethan era and  a dangerous person to associate with and the men closest to her were ultimately either executed, imprisoned  or had their reputations destroyed Barnfield was fully aware of Penelope Rich and her behavior and was very intimated by her beauty , intellect and hated her for her power over men that he loved this is why he hated her with  such a passion.

83: Shakespeare the introvert ?

The author of Willobie His Avisa  suggests that Shakespeare was a smooth talking actor  who kept hidden  his true and self serving nature  - could there have been a grain of truth in this assessment ?  In his sonnets Shakespeare keeps repeating his undying love and allegiance to The Fair Youth however cracks appear in this facade and it becomes obvious that Shakespeare was often angry and  frustrated with The Fair Youth and also that he was expecting some kind of reward from The Fair Youth  .

At the end of the day could it have been  that   Shakespeare was simply a role playing  actor in his dealings with The Fair Youth ? The author of Willobie His Avisa depicts The Old Player Mr W.S. as simply putting on an act to pass himself off as H.W's best friend.

In his satire The great Assizes holden in Parnassus by Apollo and his Assessours George Wither depicts Shakespeare as a loner obsessed with money  who was always inspecting financial transcripts. Given Shakespeare's diverse business ventures and the less than admirable fact that he was fined for trying to financially benefit on a grain shortage by hoarding grain suggest that there may have been some truth to Withers assessment.

Shakespeare's personality has always been the source of much speculation , I  do not subscribe to Shakespeare as being a gregarious and larger than life person and think that the evidence actually points towards a rather private person. Shakespeare may have been  similar to the  many actors and comics whose real life personality is entirely different to that of their stage persona.

Shakespeare didn't engage in any of the heated literary debates of his day, or even appear to comment on many of the significant events of his era. This book has shown that he came in for some prolonged and  harsh criticism but throughout it all seemed to maintain a dignified silence. Ben Jonson described Shakespeare as a gentle person .The 17th century  writer John Aubrey wrote that Shakespeare was not a company keeper and disliked debauchery. It is also noted that appearances didn't seem to be particularly important to Shakespeare . Even at the height of his fame and wealth he was content to  live in very basic rental accommodation in rather seedy areas of London this is not very suggestive of a person who frequently entertained other people.  I pick Shakespeare as an introvert and that this basic character trait may have become more pronounced as he became older. I suspect that he could be very charming and entertaining when the occasion demanded but was probably more of an inward looking person who may have tended to listen to people and observe his surroundings very closely and as such was able to make genuine insights into life and  human nature. Introverted people tend to keep a small group of trusted friends close to them. I notice that the names Hemmings, Condell and Burbage keep popping up in Shakespeare's life.


Shakespeare left few clues about his life , he never called himself a playwright but he did call himself a poet and I think that ultimately it was deep and personal  poetry that was closest to William Shakespeare's heart.











84: Timeline.

We are finally at the point where we can run a postulated timeline of all connected events ( This timeline is incomplete and will be subject to future revision and addition).

1573 : Henry Wriothesley born.

1575 : Philip Sidney's first meeting with Penelope Devereux she is 12- 13 years old.

1576 : Death of Walter Devereux ( Penelope's father ) on his deathbed  he gives Philip Sidney permission to marry Penelope.

1576 : Penelope now becomes a ward of Lord Huntingdon

1578 : Philip Sidney was nephew and heir to the childless Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester but Dudley married in 1578 and had a son , Sidney was now  no longer inline for any inheritance and was effectively no more than a poor Gentleman.

1581 : Death of Henry Wriothesley's father. Henry Wriothesley becomes a ward of the state under William Cecil.

1581 : An agreement is made between Lord Huntingdon and William Cecil for Penelope Devereux to marry Robert Rich,( Penelope was not in favor of this union). Sidney was not considered because of his recent fall in social stature.

1581 Penelope Rich is introduced to Elizabeth's Court she becomes a maid of honor to Elizabeth.

1584 : Penelope Rich meets Charles Blount - many think that their affair started at this point.

1586 : Philip Sidney ( Mr D.B) killed in action battle of Zutphen ( Netherlands)

1589 : November, Richard Barnfield matriculates Brasenose College Oxford University. He appears to have been a problem student and was rustified ( suspended) for a season in 1591 . It is unclear what his misdemeanor was He must have been suspended in the Hilary term which runs from January to March.

1590 Henry Wriothesley aged 17 is introduced to Elizabeth's court he is now in Penelope Rich's sphere of influence. 

1591 19th March  Barnfield was allowed to resume his studies at Oxford..Disciplinary records show that in order to continue he was required either to deliver a declaration publicly or pay a fine of 6 S 8d 

1591 October 1st Henry Willobies first term at Oxford begins. 

1591 : December, Henry Willobie matriculates St Johns College Oxford University.

1591 First Publication of Philip Sidney's  Astrophel and Stella  . This is an unauthorized publication. The poets know that the book has been written for Penelope Rich 

1591  Rumors are starting to swirl around Penelope and Charles Blount and the poets definitely know that they are having an affair. In his work Polyhymnia which celebrated the  Accession Day tilts the poet / playwright George Peele  describes Charles Blount  who participated but also  constantly puns on Penelope's name.

1591 Henry Wriothesley and Charles Blount participated in The Accession Day Tilts . Penelope Rich was also present and scandalously  was wearing Charles Blount's colors. 

1591 John Clapham dedicates Narcissus to Henry Wriothesley . Claphams master is William Cecil , Wriothesley's minder. Cecil wanted Wriothesley to marry his granddaughter Elizabeth de Vere . Wriothesley was stalling on this arranged marriage. Narcissus is state sponsored conduct literature  directed at Wriothesley  . The lead figure of Narcissus is a young man who has no interest in woman and who comes to an unfortunate end. The not so veiled threat here is coming from Cecil and he is saying  that Wriothesley will also come to an unfortunate end unless he fulfills his side of the bargain.

1592: Feb-June theatre company of  Lord Strange's men perform Shakespeare's King Henry trilogy Shakespeare is aligned with this company , Henry Wriothesley is in London at this juncture and is a known avid play goer , I suspect that it is at this time that he may have met and befriended William Shakespeare. I think Shakespeare starts to write his sonnet sequence to Henry Wriothesley at this point.

It is also at this point that I believe that Richard Barnfield and Henry Willobie encounter each other at Oxford university.

1592 : Feburary Richard Barnfield Sits and passes B.A. Degree

1592 : April Richard Barnfield Re enrolls into Oxford University.

1592 : 23rd June  theaters close due to severe outbreak of bubonic plague.

1592 :Death of Robert Greene , Robert Greene libels Shakespeare in Groatsworth of Wit Groatsworth certainly is a libel on Shakespeare however there is some confusion as to whether the libel is coming from Robert Greene or Shakespeare's fellow playwright Henry Chettle..

1592 : September Henry Wriothesley visits Oxford University both Richard Barnfield and Henry Willobie still at Oxford,Barnfield may well have become infatuated with Wriothesley at this point. 

1592 The Poet Henry Constable is infatuated with Penelope Rich and publishes his sonnet sequence Diana  This has been written for Penelope Rich. Penelope is using Constable as a go between between herself and her brother Robert Devereux and King James of Scotland they are trying to encourage James to take the English throne. this is a treasonous act.

1593 Francis Meres is incorporated into Oxford University  ( Meres states in 1598 that he is a very good friend of Richard Barnfield) it may well be at this juncture that he meets and befriends Richard Barnfield. 

1593 : Lent ( April) Richard Barnfield participates in ceremony for Master's gown but does not sit the papers for this degree. It is unclear at what juncture Barnfield left Oxford University/ I conjecture that Barnfield left for London with the sole intention of becoming a poet and winning Henry Wriothesley's patronage.

1593 Charles Blount goes AWOL and joins Jim Norrey in his Normandy campaign . Elizabeth was not amused and formally recalled him. ( Penelope would also not have been impressed).

1593 Cryptic comments are made by both Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey that Wriothesley is in a triangular relationship that involves a poet/ actor.

1593: 18th April Shakespeare publishes Venus and Adonis dedicates the work to Henry Wriothesley.Venus and Adonis is a reaction against Narcissus. 

1593 April  Queen Elizabeth orders Charles Blount to return to England and remain at court in her presence. 

1593 November Charles Blount Henry Wriothesley and Robert Devereux all perform in the Accession Day Tilts.

1593  10th May Barnabe Barnes publishes his sonnet sequence Parthenophil and Parthenophe he unsuccessfully attempts to secure Henry Wriothesley's patronage.

1593 June 27th Thomas Nashe dedicates his novel  The Unfortunate Traveler To Henry Wriothesley in another failed bid to secure Wriothesley's patronage.

1593 : Thomas Lodge publishes his sonnet sequence Phillis to this sequence is attached Loges long poem The Complaint of Elstred . This poem describes the adulterous love triangle  that involves Queen Guendolen  her husband Locrine and his lover Elstred. Barnfield rewrites this story in The Affectionate Shepherd.  

1593 December Charles Blount posted to Portsmouth. His relationship with Penelope is at crisis point. Penelope is now on her own for all of 1594

1594 February Barnfields book Greenes Funerals is published. In this book Barnfield promises that he will praise a man he calls The muses own ( Henry Wriothesley) and libel the man who stole Robert Greenes feathers ( William Shakespeare) 

1594: May theatres re open Shakespeare is now associated with Lord Chamberlains  acting troupe.

1594: 9th May  Rape of Lucrece published  Shakespeare's dedication to Henry Wriothesley states that Shakespeare loves Wriothesley.

1594 27th June William Blount 7th Baron Mountjoy  Charles Blounts older  brother unexpectedly died . Charles Blount  now  became 8th Baron Mountjoy.

1594 October Wriothesley comes of age and formally rejects Elizabeth de Vere . His furious minder Lord Burleigh  bankrupts him with a five thousand pound fine.

1594: 3rd September First edition of Willobie His Avisa published.This is a work authored by Richard Barnfield

 not Henry Willobie.The work attacks William Shakespeare and Penelope Rich. It is also lampooning Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece.

1594 November Richard Barnfield publishes The Affectionate Shepherd . This is his formal bid to win Wriothesley. He delivers on both promises he made in Greenes Funerals ie  Praises The muses own ( Wriothesley) and libels the man who stole Robert Greenes feathers ( William Shakespeare) The full book is cynically dedicated to Penelope Rich.

1594 : 28th December  Shakespeare's play The Comedy of Errors is  performed at Grays Inn Hall as part of the Christmas revels the actors included Richard Burbage and Shakespeare himself.

1594 November- December Charles Blount returns to London he starts to openly live with Penelope Rich.

1595 January 17th Richard Barnfield publishes Cynthia and reveals his true name. After this publication Barnfields father formally disinherits him. Blount and Penelope Rich were displeased with The Affectionate Shepherd and Barnfield disappeared from the writing scene for the next three years.

1595 Capture and execution of the Catholic Jesuit Father Robert Southwell . Southwell was Henry Wriothesley's spiritual adviser ( Wriothesley was a crypto-Catholic) . Southwell's execution was not popular with the Essex Circle and Charles Blount  attempted to stop the execution. Southwell was a gifted poet whose work influenced Shakespeare there is even some evidence that he and Shakespeare were related.

1595 Henry Wriothesley begins his relationship with Penelope Rich's cousin Elizabeth Vernon.

1595: May Shakespeare known to be associated with acting company of  Lord Chamberlain's men.

1595 Henry Willobie enrolls  into Lincolns Inn 

1596 Penelope's Complaint is published . This book claims to be defending Penelope and pretends to take her side and calls Avisa a whore. Once again the book is a work of irony that is insulting Penelope Rich. I think the author of Penelope's Complaint is the same person as the author of Willobie his Avisa and that both books are cynically attacking Penelope Rich. 

1596 2nd Edition of Willobie His Avisa published. This edition contains an apology that shows the true meaning of Willobie his Avisa. The apology claims Henry Willobie is now dead ( A claim we know to be untrue). This edition also contains The Victory of English Chastity supposedly written by Henry Willobie's brother who we are assured is also dead.

This poem puts Avisa's chastity on trial with Penelope The ruling is that Penelope is  a whore . This poem confirms the fact that Willobie His Avisa is a covert attack on a woman called Penelope. It is believed that the 1596 edition of Willobie his Avisa was suppressed very shortly after its publication. 

1596 Shakespeare renews his fathers bid for a coat of arms. It is awarded. Shakespeare" Ye Player" is now a Gentleman. His coat of Arms contains a pun because it includes a spear.

1597 Legal papers demonstrate that Henry Willobie is not dead and is living in West Knoyle Wiltshire. The historical record of  Henry Willobies life ends at this point.

1598 Barnfield publishes Poems in diverse humors . This work contains some of his best poetry and in this work he "praises " William Shakespeare. The Work is published by John Jaggard

1598 September 7th  Francis Meres  publishes Palladis Tamia in this work he makes two important disclosures , 1 he reveals that Shakespeare's sonnets are already in private circulation 2 He claims he is a good friend of Richard Barnfield.

Barnfield's sonnets show powerful similarities to Shakespeare's it may well have been through Meres that Barnfield obtained copies of Shakespeare's sonnets. 

1598 Henry Wriothesley secretly marries the pregnant Elizabeth Vernon. The marriage is held at Penelope Rich's house Leez Priory. 

1598 November  Henry Wriothesley's first daughter is born  he names her Penelope.

1599 3rd edition of Willobie His Avisa published. This book is officially banned.

1599 The Globe Theater is opened Shakespeare is a part owner. 

1599 The Bishop's Ban  June 4th  A number of satires including   Willobie His Avisa are classed as being libelous  and are  officially ordered to be recalled and burned. It has been observed that the Arch Bishop Whitgift  who was behind this ban was a close personal friend of Robert Devereux ( Brother of Penelope Rich) and that a number of the books that were banned were books that were libeling Essex and his supporters.We recall that I pick Willobie His Avisa as being a  libel targeting Essex circle members the Bishops Ban of 1599 may well have been influenced by The Essex circle who were looking to quash the libel Willobie His Avisa.

1599 The unofficial publication The Passionate Pilgrim is published by William Jaggard. This is the second edition ( first may well have been in late 1598) This is a bizarre collection that contains work from Barnfield , Walter Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe  and Shakespeare . Shakespeare is forwarded as the author of the books contents. It is noted that all of Shakespeare's work has been taken out of context and shows him in a particularly poor light. This work is contrasted with Barnfield's work which is of excellent standard and comes from Poems in Diverse Humors. It is also noted that someone has rewritten portions of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and added very misogynistic twists to this adaptation. I  think The Passionate Pilgrim is a libel  on William Shakespeare engineered by Richard Barnfield . Its purpose was to damage Shakespeare's reputation by outing him as a plagiarist.

1600 Shakespeare ridiculed in The Parnassus plays.  

1601 The Play Richard The Second is performed in Shakespeare's Globe theatre at the request of Robert Devereux it is hoped this play will whip up anti royalist sentiment. 

1601 The Essex rebellion occurs Penelope Rich is a ring leader in this revolt. 

!601 Robert Devereux  ( The Cavaleiro) executed Henry Wriothesley condemned to death. 

1601 Penelope placed under house arrest and is very lucky to escape execution.

1601 Shakespeare's mysterious poem The Phoenix and the turtle appears in Robert Chesters book Love's Martyr. This book has been authored by a group of poets  and it is believed that this book is a protest against the execution of Robert Devereux and the imprisonment of Henry Wriothesley.

1602 The York Herald  Peter Brooke complains that as an actor  Shakespeare was unworthy to have been elevated to the class of Gentleman. His complaint was refuted.

1603 Queen Elizabeth dies. 

1603 James 1st is crowned king of England he pardons Henry Wriothesley. Following his release Shakespeare's play Loves Labour Lost is performed for Wriothesley at Southampton house.

1603 Henry Chettle in his poem England's Mourning Garment criticizes Shakespeare for not writing any obituary following the death of Queen Elizabeth.

1603 Shakespeare's Acting company Lord Chamberlains men is reformed as The Kings Men and is awarded the patronage of King James.

1605 April 5th John Hartgill marries Margaret the sister of Henry Willobie of West Knoyle ( Hartgill and Willobie were classmates in St Johns college Oxford) This is the latest date that I can trace Henry Willobie to.  

1605 The Masque of Blackness is performed. This was written by Shakespeare's friend Ben Jonson and  Penelope Rich acted in this masque . For this masque Penelope was completely covered with lamp black wore a black wig  and was disguised as a black African woman. Shakespeare would certainly have seen this performance.

1605 4th edition of Willobie His Avisa published. 

1605 Robert Rich divorces Penelope Rich. 

1605 Charles Blount  secretly marries Penelope Rich. King James does not accept this union Blount is stripped of his title and both Charles and Penelope are publicly disgraced.

1606 Charles Blount ( Mr DH) dies ( Cause of death unknown)

1607 Penelope Rich ( Avisa) dies ( Cause of death said to have been a broken heart)

1609 Shakespeare's Sonnets are published 20th May. The departure of The Sea Venture is imminent.

1609 June 2nd The fleet of The Virginia company set forth for America. Henry Wriothesley is heavily involved in this venture. The flagship of this fleet is called The SeaVenture and the ship is carrying hundreds of settlers who were collectively known as Adventurers. This was the most important event of 1609  and in the sonnets dedication  Thomas Thorpe wishes the full venture well.

1609 5th Edition of Willobie His Avisa published 

1609 24 July The SeaVenture is wrecked by a hurricane . This is a severe setback for Wriothesley's Virginia Company. The news gets back to England and Shakespeare references the disaster in his final play The Tempest.

1612 3rd edition of The Passionate Pilgrim is published. This edition suggests Shakespeare is the author of his fellow playwright Thomas Heywood's work.  Shakespeare is personally  outraged by this publication. 

1611 John Windet transfers his publishing rights of Willobie His Avisa to William Stansby.

1613 The Globe Theater is accidentally burnt down. 

1614 The Globe Theater is rebuilt. 

1616 Death of William Shakespeare (Mr WS) ?  due to Pneumonia.

1618 Death of Robert Rich . (The Nobleman)

1620 Death of Richard Barnfield  ( Hadrian Dorrell) Unknown cause.

1623 Shakespeare's First Folio is posthumously published.  None of his poetry is included in this collection. Ironically the publisher is William  Jaggard a publisher known to be personally disliked by Shakespeare.

1624 Death of Henry Wriothesley  ( Mr H.W) unspecified   Febrile illness. The last surviving  character of Willobie His Avisa has now died.

1635 6th and Final edition of Willobie His Avisa. 

1642 Forced closure of The Globe Theater .

1645 In his satire The great Assizes holden in Parnassus by Apollo and his Assessours the poet George Wither gives a less than flattering assessment of Shakespeare calling him a mimic poet.  

85 : Observations :

 1: The  conventional history of Shakespeare tell us Shakespeare was libeled only once  ( By Robert Greene) then became a top talent. My research demonstrates that Shakespeare was harshly libeled his entire writing career and that this libeling continued after his death. The two universities looked down on him and  both attacked him - Oxford university with Willobie His Avisa and Cambridge university with The Parnassus plays.

2: Evidence is pointing to Wriothesley being involved in a triangular relationship with a poet and an unchaste woman. In the time frame 1593-1594. 

3: Charles Blount and Penelope Rich's relationship was definitely in trouble in the 1593 to 1594 time frame. John Gerrard states she had ended the relationship her self I think this occurred in 1593 . But Barnfield states in November 1594 that Guendolen loves another man above Ganymede  Also Avisa states that she has found a friend so all suitors need no longer persue her  ( September 1594) so I think that Penelope and Charles had probably  reconciled by August 1594. 

 86: A personal or political libel ?

Willobie His Avisa is attacking Robert Rich, Robert Devereux, Philip Sidney, Charles Blount, Penelope Rich, Henry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare all were aligned to The Essex Circle. It is known that in 1594 The Essex circle was in fierce conflict in Elizabeth's court with The Cecil faction . It is noticed that the second suitor - a man I identify as Robert Devereux is libeled more harshly than any of the other suitors. The question arises was Willobie His Avisa a political libel that was coming from the Cecil faction and indirectly  targeting Robert Devereux by attacking his  sister Penelope Rich ?

I have considered this question very carefully and cannot entirely dismiss this possibility. However what really seems to be getting under the skin of the author of Willobie His Avisa is the fact that  H.W. is courting Avisa and also that H.W. and W.S. are close friends. This makes me think that it is actually a personal rather than a political libel. When we read Barnfield's Affectionate Shepherd he is libeling unchaste Queen Guendolen and an Older poetic suitor this libeling is personal rather than political. I see it as a libel coming from a jealous poet who was in love with H.W. and who hated both William Shakespeare and Penelope Rich. I name this poet as Hadrian Dorrell AKA Richard Barnfield. Barnfield hated the fact that Ganymede was involved with Queen Guendolen ( Penelope Rich). Barnfield was in love with young Ganymede ( Henry Wriothesley) and in 1594 Barnfield was competing with another poet who he hated ( William Shakespeare) for the affections of Ganymede,  because of these facts I think Willobie his Avisa is more likely to have been a personal rather than a political libel and it was engineered by ...

Richard Barnfield


hadRian d rrel

Only the letter O is missing and it is  very easy to tweak this to

Hadrian Dorrell. 

The author of Willobie His Avisa  seems to hate both Penelope Rich and Robert Devereux . If the author was Richard Barnfield it is not immediately obvious as to why he would dislike Robert Devereux.

However Barnfield worshiped Philip Sidney  and it may well be that Barnfield thought that both Penelope and Robert Devereux  were bringing the reputation of Philip Sidney into disrepute. 

Penelope was disrespecting his memory by her unchaste behavior.

Robert Devereux was given Sidney's sword and married his widow and vowed to defend Sidney's memory but Devereux  was believed to be syphilitic this suggests that he was a philanderer . The author of Willobie His Avisa makes much millage out of the second suitor being syphilitic. 

87: Closing remarks.

Today we have truly dived into the sewer that is Willobie His Avisa but we have emerged clutching our bar of gold.

It is the ultimate irony that a cynical libel can actually become the key that unlocks the mysteries of the Shakespearean sonnets.

We have now reached the point where for the first time we can entirely understand how The libel Willobie His Avisa is functioning and consequently understand exactly what the libel is telling us at all levels.

The decoded text of Willobie his Avisa and the harsh libel that lies hidden in its core now equates to a hitherto undiscovered Elizabethan text deserving of new and serious study.

It is a text that is revealing new and previously unknown information about the private lives of members of the Essex Circle.

It is a text that unlocks the sonnets and can allow us to be very certain as to the identity of the protagonists of the sonnets.

. Penelope Rich has been forwarded before as being a candidate for the Dark Lady but is generally rejected because Shakespeare describes the Dark Lady as having black hair but this is unreliable all the characters in the sonnets are wearing masquerade masks but Shakespeare is allowing certain features of these people to peep through so that we can know their real identity. The Dark Lady has been given black hair but her raven black eyes are peeping through this disguise. There is strong punning on her name Rich and frequent pecuniary references are made in conjunction with her such as ? Richer than wealth? this is because her surname Rich meant money.

The Fair Youth has had his initials reversed but he is easy to recognize. With the Willobie His Avisadebacle Shakespeare had seen firsthand the damage that libels could do and this is why he is scrupulously careful not to directly name anyone.

Let no one claim that the sonnets are a mystery that cannot be solved or that the events were not historically recorded because we have three books , Shakespeare's Sonnets , Willobie His Avisa and The Affectionate Shepherd that were written primarily to describe these events.

The embedding of a spiteful book length libel that has evaded decoding for 426 years ,into a text that at first glance appears to be a whimsical and harmless work has been done with extraordinary skill.

This libel uses the device of Ironia in a masterful fashion very subtly ?switching it on and off? almost imperceptibly.

All the other devices have been inserted with astonishing skill and unless we specifically look for them we simply don't register their presence this is the hallmark of an incredibly sophisticated and multi-layered libel.

Willobie His Avisa qualifies as being the toughest libel ever placed against an Elizabethan woman , on reading this work the average Elizabethan reader would pick that it was referring to Henry Wriothesley and criticizing William Shakespeare but they would not have identified the severe libel that lurks at the core of this work , this severe libel that has been written for a select target audience of only a hand full of people.

But these people , Penelope Rich, William Shakespeare , Robert Devereux and Charles Blount and Henry Wriothesley would have understood immediately exactly what the book was saying and also how severe the libel really was.

The Essex circle would have been aghast to see such a public airing of their dirty laundry but they were in a very difficult position they could not openly defend the accusations that were being made without bringing their own reputations into disrepute all they could do was move to suppress the libel's publication, which is what happened.

We have to wonder exactly what game Barnfield was playing . Was he trying to extort the Essex circle ?

In claiming authorship of  The Affectionate Shepherd  Barn field was taking a major gamble because The Essex Circle would have immediately recognized that this was libeling their leading lady and was clearly by the same author as Willobie His Avisa. The Essex circle would be in no doubt that Richard Barnfield was libeling them.

Penelope Rich's brother Robert Devereux was a particularly bad person to cross he was known to have a dangerous and unpredictable temper and once drew his sword on the Queen.

He along with Charles Blount were the leading military figures of the day and both have been severely libeled how has Barnfield been able to avoid their wrath ? was he hiding ? or was someone protecting him? how was he untouchable ?

When the Affectionate Shepherd was first published it attracted a blaze of scandalized attention I suspect Barnfield enjoyed this and that is why he formally claimed ownership of the work. But we notice that no patron supported Barnfield and he does seem to disappear for years at a time and his formal writing career was very short why was this the case ? maybe hewas threatened. 

There are still many unanswered questions and I am certain that the libel Willobie His Avisa still contains more information every time I reread it I notice new facets about it and I have already read this book hundreds of times. There is more in this work that is awaiting discovery and I sincerely hope that readers will use my work as a platform for their own research.

I have strenuously forwarded 1594 as the year that the love triangle of the sonnets occurred but still I do not rule out the possibility that they may have occurred in the first three quarters of 1593 when Charles Blount was still in France. Then these events were briefly interrupted by Charles Blount's fleeting return and rapid departure . Then following his departure recommenced and spilled into 1594 .I am not entirely certain on this point. Certainly a triangle that occurred in 1593 and spilled into 1594 would allow more time for the events to occur and for the libels that were a reaction against these events to be written and published.

There is some evidence that Henry Wriothesley was entangled in triangular relationships in 1593. In his book ? The Unfortunate Traveler? the satirist Thomas Nashe made an enigmatic comment in his dedication to Henry Wriothesley and he stated ? A dear lover and cherisher you are , as well as the lovers of poets .as of the poets themselves.? This could be an indication that Wriothesley was a lover of the mistresses of poets as well as the poets themselves. This could well be a satirical insinuation that Wriothesley was in some form of triangular relationship. This dedication was written in September 1593.

We are puzzled by a number of issues if Barnfield was so enamored with Henry Wriothesley why is he writing a libel that could get Wriothesley offside with the Queen because the libel does seem to imply that H.W. is the author of this libel and many readers would think that Henry Wriothesley was the actual author ( he most certainly was not).

I think that the answer lies with Barnfield himself , in The Affectionate Shepherd Barnfield reveals that Wriothesley isn't interested in him this may have enraged Barnfield's narcissistic personality and perversely motivated him to destroy the thing he loved but could never obtain.

Barnfield wanted Shakespeare and Penelope Rich  out of the picture so that he would have Henry Wriothesley all to himself. Barnfield was gifted but had an outrageous sense of entitlement, his well to-do father must have been horrified by his son's actions  because he disinherited Barnfield from his will.

Perhaps Barnfield and  Henry Wriothesley did personally meet and interact with Henry Wriothesley this could have occurred when Henry Wriothesley accompanied the Queen and a group of other Noblemen on a visit to Oxford University in September 1592. This auspicious visit lasted for a week and a number of plays and debates were performed it is inconceivable that Barnsfield would have missed such an event.

Wriothesley was known to  revel in students company and it is certain that he would have mixed and mingled with the students at Oxford.

We also must ask why is Barnfield consistently referring to Shakespeare as being a much older man ?

There are a number of possibilities it may be that Shakespeare was vain person concerned about his appearance and that Barnfield knew this and was playing on this , in his sonnets Shakespeare does seem very preoccupied with his age and also depicts himself as being older.

We also need to remember that the rapid aging of a writer within a sonnet sequence was one of the trademarks of sonnet writing. The author of a sonnet would often prematurely age himself after being rejected by the object of his affections.

Sidney used this particular device as did Samuel Daniel , Michael Drayton, William Shakespeare and even Richard Barnfield did as well.

In The Affectionate Shepherd Richard Barnfield after being rejected by Ganymede suddenly starts to describe him self as a elderly man who was approaching death , this was not the case because in real life Barnfield was only 21 at the time.

This is hard evidence that the premature and exaggerated aging of a character was a feature of Barnfield's writing and that we should not interpret Barnfield's insults of Shakespeare as being an age enfeebled man as being literal.

88: Why is such a commotion made over Avisa's chastity ?

Willobie His Avisa endlessly  praises Avisa;s chastity- but the praise is ironic . This is because the author thought Penelope Rich was a complete hypocrite . In the Astrophel and Stella sequence Stella ( Penelope Rich ) ultimately rejects Astrophel ( Philip Sidney ) because she stated that an extra marital  relationship with Sidney  would taint her reputation of  spotless chastity.

The author keeps referring to Avisa's 'spotless chastity " because the irony was that Stella later proved to be an unchaste woman herself.

This was absolute cannon fodder for a libel which is exactly what Willobie His Avisa is. .


89:The Proof.

The Proof has always been with us, it is simply us who havn't pieced the existing pieces of the jigsaw together in  the correct fashion.

The proof I offer  is complex but elegant ,

Shakespeare's sonnets, Willobie his Avisa , The Affectionate Shepherd and Cynthia are all works that are in the genre of Roman a' clef  they are ALL contemporary works that are referring to the same events that involved the same set of  people, we cannot understand ANY of these works in isolation but we can understand ALL of them when we view them  in conjunction with each other  and appreciate them for the first time  in their correct historical context.

Shakespeare's sonnets are a work that is viewing the love triangle from a  participant's point of view. Willobie His Avisa and The Affectionate Shepherd are both observing and commenting on  the SAME love triangle but from the Rival Poet's frame of reference.

All three works are linked and all three works  can be understood if we  align them  in the following way...

90:The Stars allign.

The narrator of Shakespeare's sonnets ( My name is will) = W.S. from Willobie His Avisa = The Old poetic Suitor of The Affectionate Shepherd = the writer  William Shakespeare.

The Fair Youth ( Narcissus and beauties Rose and Mr W.H.)= Narcissus From George Clapham's Narcissus=  young Ganymede from Affectionate Shepherd ( Who is also referred to as being Narcissus) = young H.W. from Willobie His Avisa ( who reveals himself through the phrase Inopem ne copia fecit as also being Narcissus) = Earl of Southampton Henry Wriothesley.

The Rival Poet= The author of Willobie His Avisa = The Author of The Affectionate Shepherd = a homosexual poet who is a rival for the affections of The Fair Youth =  the poet Richard Barnfield.

The Dark Lady ( Rich in Will)= Unchaste Avisa= Unchaste Queen Guendolen = Lady  Penelope Rich.


The greatest literary mystery is the identity of The Dark Lady, The Fair Youth, and The Rival poet of Shakespeare's Sonnets Willobie His Avisa independently identifies these protagonists as being Penelope Rich, Henry Wriothesley, and William Shakespeare.

From the murky depths of time we have dragged a strange and complex beast to the surface and in the light of day we now view it for the first time in its entirety .

We are astonished at its ugliness but equally we are amazed by what it can teach us




all rights reserved. 

Michael Mooten


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