Willobie His Avisa


You say Penelope Rich was the Dark Lady but she was a blonde . The sonnets describe a black haired woman.

The important point to realize is that in his sonnets Shakespeare is often speaking figuratively rather than literally. Also The characters of The Fair Youth and The Dark Lady are intended to represent Day and Night respectively . For this reason The Fair Youth is associated with all things light and bright where as the Dark Lady is painted as being all things  black . Shakespeare  is also very disillusioned with The Dark Lady at the time  he was writing The Dark Lady sonnets this is why he rejects the traditional Petrarchan conceit of selling a woman's hair as golden wire and  states The Dark lady's hair should be sold as black wire.

In addition .Shakespeare is taking a cue from Sidney here. (Shakespeare's sonnets have multiple points of contact with Sidney's sonnet sequence).


In Sidney's sonnet sequence Sidney celebrates Stella's blackness ( The color of her eyes) as being her most beautiful attribute and describes black as being the new form of beauty.

However as Sidney's sequence progressess and Astrophil  ( Philip Sidney ) loses Stella  ( Penelope Rich). Stella is depicted as an increasingly black figure and the blackness assumes its more negative connotations such as sadness and immorality , this increasing blackness continues until Sidney finally paints Stella as being entirely black giving her the persona of night - he laments that he has called her fair  but now speaks of her soul which he says is black and gives her the persona of a witch and a devil ( both are associated with blackness).

Shakespeare follows suit .  He is smitten with the dark lady's black eyes and remarks on black as being the new form of beauty but as the Dark Lady rejects him she becomes an increasingly black figure to him until her eyes ,skin and  hair all become black. She becomes the metaphorical  embodyment  of blackness to him . The blackness that completely engulfs the Dark Lady has lead some scholars to think that she was a physically black woman . But this was not the case  Shakespeare like Ovid and like Sidney  is using  the device of  poetic metamorphosis.

The overarching emotions of The Dark Lady sequence are the heavy elemental emotions of  sadness jealousy and anger , Shakespeare is in mourning for his lost love of Penelope Rich but he is also very angry at her behaviour , this is why she is presented as a completely blackened and corrupted muse.

Finally here is a sonnet by Henry Howard - The Earl of Surrey , This sonnet appeared in Tottle's  Misccellany which was published in 1557 . Shakespeare was very familiar with this collection and had read it by 1594 ( The time I think The Dark Lady Sonnets were written) we can be certain of this because in his 1594  Rape of Lucrece   Shakespeare has taken some direct quotes from this book.

In Howard's poem a blonde woman has rejected the poet and he associates her with blackness he can no longer see her golden tresses but only her black coronet.

It is very obvious that the opening line I never sawe my Ladye laye apart is very reminiscent of The opening of Sonnet 83 I never saw that you did painting need.

 But more importantly the themes of sadness , unrequited love and blackness of this sonnet are very similar to The Dark Lady sonnets. There is another connection between Howard and Shakespeare Howard was the first person to introduce the "Shakespearean sonnet " into the English form  therefore clearly was a significant  influence on Shakespeare.  I think Shakespeare admired this sonnet and I forward it along with The Astrophel and Stella sequence as being an influence for The Dark Lady poems. 


 Complaint that his ladie after she knew of his loue kept her face alway hidden from him  

I neuer sawe my Ladye laye apart  
Her cornet blacke, in colde nor yet in heate,  
Sith first she knew my griefe was growen so great,  
Which other fansies driueth from my hart  
That to my selfe I do the thought reserue,  
The which vnwares did wounde my wofull brest:  
But on her face mine eyes mought neuer rest,  
Yet, sins she knew I did her loue and serue  
Her golden tresses cladde alway with blacke,  
Her smilyng lokes that hid thus euermore,  
And that restraines whiche I desire so sore.  
So dothe this cornet gouerne me alacke:  
In somer, sunne: in winters breath, a frost:  
Wherby the light of her faire lookes I lost.  


Some portraits of Penelope Rich show her wearing a headdress . In Elizabethan times there were two types of headdresses one was white and the other was black and called a widows peak. It may have been that black was a color Penelope Rich often wore.


This miniature  shows Penelope  wearing both a black gown and what looks to be a dark headdress. In his despair Shakespeare was seeing no summer  color at all with Penelope and was literally "painting her black"/


 Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black...

William Shakespeare sonnet 127 

Can you give a simple explanation for your theory ?

 Yes the poem Willobie his Avisa is not an  innocent work instead it is a  severe ironic libel that is documenting the exploits of an unchaste woman.

 In The Arcadian Rhetoric The Elizabethan scholar Abraham Fraunce defines Ironia  in the following way


Cap. 6. of Ironia.

Ironia is a Trope, that by naming one contrarie intend another. The speciall grace whereof is in jesting and merie conceipted speaches. This trope continued maketh a most sweet allegorie, and it is perceiued by the contrarietie of the
matter it selfe, or by the manner of utterance quite differing from the sense of the wordes, for then it is apparant that wee speake but jestingly and not as wee thinke.

Fraunce goes on to describe a form of Ironia called praeteritio  this form of Ironia   praises its target but keeps subtly letting slip hints that the praise is disingenuous.

The libel Willobie his Avisa from start to finish  has been written in this style and the target is most certainly Avisa  

The libel is   attacking  the Lady Penelope Rich.

Penelope Rich can be linked in multiple ways to this book and represents the main character  Avisa..

. Penelope was known to have had an adulterous relationship  with Charles Blount  but was  the truth about Penelope more complex -  was she  involved in other relationships that the historians  don't know about ?   does  contemporary evidence for this  exist in a string of  libels ?

I think so..

 If  Avisa is identified as being Penelope Rich ( who was the leading lady of the Essex circle). Then the two suitors  H.W. and W.S. have got to be Essex circle members namely Henry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare.

If this is the case then  all of the protagonists of Shakespeare's sonnets are now known .

The full book is an insincere work of irony . Henry Willobie may have written parts of this work  but more significantly   the author  who has had a hand in this libel  was the minor poet Richard Barnfield. The name Hadrian Dorrell is an anagram of the  name  Richard Barnfield .

               R i c h a r d   B a r n f i e  l d

                      h a d r i a n     d R r e l

It is noticed that only the letter O has been elided and the anagram

           hadrian drrel  is formed from the name Richard Barnfield.

Richard Barnfield was known to use pseudonyms  . Hadrian is a name that comes with homosexual connotations ( The Emperor Hadrian was a homosexual who deified his young lover Antinious) as such Hadrian is a pseudonym that Barnfield would have been very likely to have chosen.



 Hadrian Dorrell has the extreme view that a genuinely chaste woman would prefer death to dishonour - a view Barnfield shared., Dorrell  states that he is a student with close ties to Oxford university this was absolutely correct for Richard Barnfield who was at Oxford at the same time as Henry Willobie.

If Hadrian Dorrell is Richard Barnfield then a major new spin is placed on Willobie His Avisa  was he author of Willobie His Avisa was a homosexual author who was very concerned about a particular person in Willobie His Avisa - Namely the young aristocrat H.W.


In the introduction Hadrian Dorrell states that in the H.W. dialogue  of Willobie His Avisa the author describes his own love . The H.W dialogue describes only three people . Avisa, The Old Player Mr W.S. and the young Aristocrat Mr H.W.

The author of Willobie His Avisa is definitely not in love with either Avisa or Mr W.S. this only leaves H.W. The ramifications here are most significant...

The author of Willobie His Avisa seems to be jealous of the friendship between H.W. and W.S. and seems to want to do everything to undermine this friendship  

Is Willobie His Avisa the work of a homosexual author ? does it  belong in the genre of homoerotic literature ?  Such an interpretation has never before been forwarded for Willobie His Avisa.

The Shakespearean  Scholar Dr  Ian Wilson identified Avisa as being Penelope Rich and thought the full book was attacking her ...  - I entirely agree.

The modern editor of Richard Barnfield Prof George Klawitter thought that Ganymede  of The Affectionate Shepherd may have been Henry Wriothesley and suspected unchaste Queen Guendolen represented Penelope Rich  

- Again  I entirely agree  so now these two key  observations need to be aligned...


If Richard Barnfield is Hadrian Dorrell then it is almost certain that the young man who Richard Barnfield states that he is in love with (Ganymede )  is also H.W.  -  We immediately notice Richard Barnfield's book The Affectionate Shepherd written only three months later was cynically dedicated to Penelope Rich

 I think the love triangle that Barnfield presents in The Affectionate Shepherd  of Young Ganymede , Unchaste Queen Guendolen and an older and infatuated poet  is the SAME love triangle that is being presented in Willobie His Avisa of young H.W. Unchaste Avisa and The Old Player Mr W.S.  .

I identify the H.W and the W.S. of Willobie His Avisa as being Henry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare. I identify Ganymede and The Old Poet of The Affectionate Shepherd as Henry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare . I think The unchaste woman Avisa and Queen Guendolen are both intended to be  The Lady Penelope Rich .

The love triangles presented in Willobie His Avisa. The Affectionate Shepherd and Shakespeare.s sonnets  are all referring to the same people and the same events  that occurred in 1593-1594 time frame).

It is very significant that  Shakespeare celebrates  The Dark Lady's black eyes  Penelope Rich was famous for her extraordinary black eyes and Philip Sidney immortalized her as being the woman who made black the new form of beauty..In sonnet 135  Shakespeare refers to The Dark Lady as being Rich in Will  he is punning on Penelope's surname in the same way that  Sidney did.

Shakespeare and Wriothesley are not known to have had a relationship with Penelope Rich but we need to remember that the solution to  The love triangle of Shakespeare's sonnets  is going to be information that was not formally historically recorded and therefore is going to be new information to us.

The love triangle of Shakespeare's sonnets was not recorded in a formal historical sense but luckily it was poetically recorded in a string of libels. These libels need to be understood because they are the only key that can unlock Shakespeare's sonnets..


Barnfield would first have seen Henry Wriothesley when Wriothesley accompanied Queen Elizabeth 1st  on her  visit to Oxford university in 1592.

I think that   Barnfield was infatuated with Henry Wriothesley and disliked and was jealous of both William Shakespeare and Lady Penelope Rich and their close relationship with Henry Wriothesley this is why he targeted them both in a string of libels.

Barnfield's motivation in writing these libels was to persuade Henry Wriothesley to leave both William Shakespeare and Penelope Rich  and establish a relationship solely with himself.

Barnfield continued the dialogue that he established in Willobie his Avisa with his next work The Affectionate Shepherd , in that book he  again warned Ganymede / H.W ( Henry Wriothesley) about the dangers of the older poetic suitor ( W.S. ) William Shakespeare and of the older unchaste Aristocrat Queen Guendolen / Avisa ( Penelope Rich).


Barnfield followed The Affectionate Shepherd with his work Cynthia , in Cynthia Barnfield formally broke his anonymity.

It is noted that all three texts were released within a four month time frame of each other. 

Richard Barnfield was the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's sonnets  the love triangle that he describes in both Willobie His Avisa and The  Affectionate Shepherd is the SAME love triangle that Shakespeare was describing in his sonnets. The only difference is that the triangle that Barnfield is describing is being viewed from the Rival Poet's frame of reference.

The protagonists of Shakespeare's sonnets were

William Shakespeare Poet / Narrator

Henry Wriothesley The Fair Youth

Penelope Rich The Dark Lady

Richard Barnfield The Rival Poet. 


Willobie his Avisa , Shakespeare's sonnets and The Affectionate Shepherd /Cynthia are ALL LINKED TEXTS that are  describing THE SAME set of events and through my theory are now being seen in their correct historical context for the very  first time.

 So thou ... being Rich in Will ...

William Shakespeare Sonnet 135 


 What's the book about ?

In 1589 Richard Field  ( Shakespeares publisher) published  The Marchants Avizo  Avizo is a Spanish word that means warning or notification. Avisa  is a present tense of the same word.

The Avizo was a moralistic book that offered conduct literature to young men  warning them to avoid the  the dangers of wine woman gambling  and instead concentrate on their godly meditations and focus on the  task of being a merchant.

The Avizo was very popular and underwent six publications.

The author of Willobie His Avisa  is using the same tactic . The Avisa is a moralistic book that is sending a warning .to all young men . What it is warning is that

Penelope has already chosen one of her suitors so all other suitors need to  abandon their suits .

This specific warning is directed  at the lusty young gallant H.W. ( Henry Wriothesley)

later the same year Richard Barnfield  reiterated this warning when he warned his young love object ( Ganymede)  that  Ganymede needed to abandon his pursuit of a beautiful unchste woman because that woman  already loved another suitor.

Willobie His Avisa = from start to finish is conduct literature.  





 If the Ganymede sequence was intended for Henry  Wriothesley why was it dedicated to William Stanley The Earl of Derby ?

 Barnfield dedicated His work Cynthia to the Aristocratic William Stanley and he is continuing and amplifying  his homoerotic  verse however this verse is not directed at William Stanley. and this dedication was no more sincere than his dedication to Penelope Rich .

It is important to appreciate Barnfield's promise to Ganymede...

Whose mirth's my health, whose griefe's my harts annoying:
Thy bane my bale, thy blisse my blessednes,
Thy ill my hell, thy weale my welfare is.
 What  Barnfield is stating is that he will side with Ganymede and that  what ever hurts Ganymede Barnfield will hate and  will attack,  Wriothsley was infatuated with Penelope but Penelope's real love was Charles Blount.  This is why Barnfield wrote The Affectionate Shepherd . And dedicated it to Penelope Rich , he wanted to out her as an immoral adulteress. He also wanted to send the message to Penelope - Get your hands off my Ganymede you whore.

In 1595 William Stanley was about to marry Elizabeth de Vere . This was the woman  Wriothesley was supposed to have married   but refused. Elizabeth de Vere was also the granddaughter of William Cecil . Wriothesley's minder William Cecil was furious and  fined Wriothesley five thousand pounds and demanded immediate payment , Wriothesley was forced to borrow effectively bankrupting himself.

In contrast Stanley had agreed to marry Elizabeth de Vere and now in the eyes of William Cecil was the new blue eyed boy who could do no wrong. The Cecils helped with Stanley's inheritance dispute  and arranged a huge state wedding to be attended by the Queen and a large group of Aristocrats all the while Wriothesley was languishing.

Wriothesley's woe and fall in social standing  would not have been lost on Barnfield. Barnfield worshiped Wriothesley and wanted to strike a blow against Stanley on his behalf. Barnfield wanted Stanley to fall out of favor with the Cecils and Aristocracy in the same way that Wriothesley had and he knew exactly how to achieve this... 

Barnfield waited until Stanley was about to marry then personally  dedicated one of  the most explicitly homoerotic books ever published  to Stanley. Stanley would have been horrified and such a dedication would have been acutely embarrassing.

Barnfield knew most readers of his dedication in Cynthia would automatically assume that Stanley was Ganymede.  And therefore such a dedication could certainly make Stanley lose credibility in the eyes of William Cecil, his  wife to be Elizabeth de Vere and all aristocrats including The Queen herself. - Since all might suspect that Stanley might have some hidden secrets or even had a double life . It is certain that Stanley would have strenuously denied that he was Ganymede . To have a book of highly charged homoerotic literature dedicated to him was a most inauspicious start to William Stanley's married life.

Barnfield's message to Stanley was  You don't deserve the accolades . Wriothesley does and  if Wriothesley loses favor with William Cecil then  I'l make certain that you do too. 

Barnfield was not interested in patronage with Stanley what  he was trying to demonstrate was that he had unshakable allegiance to Ganymede ( Henry Wriothesley) and was not afraid to take an aristocrat down a peg on Ganymede's behalf.

This type of dedication , - where the work is dedicated to one person but has actually been written speciffically for someone else is known as a Stalking Horse dedication . This type of dedication was used by a number of Elizabethan writers. Richard Barnfield's  anonymous dedication of The Affectionate Shepherd to Penelope Rich is an example of both an ironic and insincere dedication but also of a Stalking Horse type dedication. The book has clearly been written for Ganymede and Penelope Rich was most certainly not Ganymede.

I consider the dedications of The Affectionate Shepherd and Cynthia to both be insincere and Stalking Horse type dedications.

In attaching his real name to Cynthia and claiming authorship of The Affectionate Shepherd  Barnfield was taking the ultimate gamble   his work fully  had the potential to annoy Penelope Rich, Charles Blount. William Stanley and William Cecil would have been mortified to see the husband of his granddaughter have such explicitly homoerotic verse dedicated to him. The Queen might have also started to ask questions here. These were all incredibly dangerous people to cross and homosexuality was illegal and potentially carried the death penalty.

Barnfield knew there were going to be repercussions to his work for this reason he attached a long poem in the style of Edmund Spenser that praised Elisa ( Queen Elizabeth)  in this poem he states that his love for the Queen supersedes his love for Ganymede . The reason Barnfield did this was to attempt to stay in favor with the Queen.

There absolutely must have been significant repercussions to Barnfield's work because he formally disappeared from the writing scene for the next three years. Stanley most certainly did not offer him patronage but neither did he win Wriothesley's favor. After this Barnfield would never secure Aristocratic patronage of any kind, his father disinherited him and he likely became something of an untouchable.

Barnfield made his dedication to Wriothesley in The Affectionate Shepherd by including the love triangle. Wriothesley would have recognized himself within this love triangle and realized at a very early stage that the full Ganymede sequence had been written for him.

Wriothesley was the real target and he had dealings with both Penelope Rich and William Stanley any work dedicated to Rich or Stanley would unquestionably also be read by Wriothesley. 

Barnfield entirely understood that poetry was a double edged sword that could be used to immortalize the object of the poets love but also to shame a target.  - The author of Willobie His Avisa also completely understood this concept. With both books  Barnfield was aiming to idolize Henry Wriothesley but at the same time discredit Penelope Rich, William Shakespeare and William Stanley. 


But Penelope Loved Charles Blount and not Shakespeare and Wriothesley.

I agree !!!  but we need to look at the actions of The Dark Lady within the context of her own times. 

1: Penelope was stuck in a loveless marriage .She had five children to Lord Rich.: 

2: In 1592 she had had an illegitimate child with Blount. Penelope and Charles had been in a long term relationship which may have been going on for as long as ten years.

3: To marry Charles Blount Penelope needed a divorce . In Elizabethan times this would require  consent from The Church, The Queen , Lord Rich  it would also require both Charles and Penelope to publicly admit to being in an adulterous relationship.

4: Charles Blount had only recently inherited his title of Lord Mountjoy ( Occurred in first quarter of 1594)

5 : Blount had always been a favorite of the Queen.

6: The Queen took a hard line on adulterers and tended to imprison them. 


All of these factors meant that despite Penelope being in love with Charles she was trapped. if she pursued a divorce  the fallout could ruin Charles Blount. If Blount was imprisoned and stripped of his title it would end his career and his aristocratic status. Blount would have been fully aware of this problem. An attempt to marry Penelope could cost him everything.. In 1594 he was staying in Portsmouth he was not making any attempt to formalize his relationship with Penelope.

By 1593-1594 Penelope and Charles relationship was at crisis point. Penelope was desperate to escape her marriage and after a long term relationship with Blount all she had to show was an illegitimate child  and there was still no way out of her marriage.

Despite her independence and Aristocracy Penelope was a in a very male centered world and had few real options . However Penelope did have one major card that she could play. - She was considered to be the most beautiful woman of her generation. She knew that she  could use her physical attractiveness to exert her own power in the relationship with the goal of motivating Charles Blount to do the right thing.

By 1593-4  Penelope acted. She called off her relationship with Blount ( this was recorded by the jesuit John Gerrard)  and started turning her attention first to Wriothesley's personal poet then to Wriothesley himself . She probably liked both men but was not serious with either she knew word would get back to Blount and that Blount would act.

This is exactly what happened Blount and Penelope had reconciled by September 1594. Blount formalized their relationship in early 1595 and they started to openly live together. Penelope's plan had worked.

However both Shakespeare and Wriothesley were victims of Penelope's actions because both were still completely infatuated. Wriothesley had never been keen on marrying Elizabeth de Vere  and it  is likely that in late 1594 Wriothesley  was  still  in love with Penelope I forward this as being the factor that led him to refuse Elisabeth de Vere.

Both Barnfield and Shakespeare were very concerned about Wriothesleys ongoing infatuation. If Wriothesley  didn't marry by 6th October 1594 he faced bankruptcy.  Neither Shakespeare or Barnfield wanted this because it meant he would no longer be able to be a patron. 

Shakespeare warned The Fair Youth that The Dark Lady was simply playing a game with him. Barnfield  warned Ganymede that Penelope was in love with another man . Willobie His Avisa warns H.W. that Avisa isn't interested in him and  finishes with H.W. being completely destroyed by Avisa then crying out in Latin the Narcissus quote My Riches make me poor !

But Wriothesley was notoriously stubborn and didn't listen . After his twenty first birthday  William Cecil gave him six weeks grace to  change his mind  . Wriothesley would not budge and in November Cecil bankrupted him. It is noticed that the conduct literature (Willobie his Avisa and The Affectionate Shepherd) both of which  implored him to end his infatuation  were both published in this time frame.

An embittered Shakespeare  dismisses The Dark Lady as acting out of lust and foul pride but Penelope had never wanted to marry Lord Rich and had made many sacrifices in her ten year marriage . She was simply trying to regain control of her own life and her own  happiness. Penelope was desperate she knew that if she didn't act she might never escape her marriage. Penelope Rich was one of the most controversial figures of the Elizabethan age but ultimately  her actions were motivated by love. 

Penelope  was very literary minded and highly musical she  often made friends with poets , artists and musicians ( a number of these were not aristocrats) despite her very cultured exterior  Penelope was extraordinarily rebellious she was  involved in treason and was unafraid of the Queen. Penelope had a double life and was known to have been a close friend and confidante of Henry Wriothesley. The scenario of a friendship between Penelope Rich and Henry Wriothesley and his poet William Shakespeare  is far from impossible.  


 So am I as the RICH. whose blessed key

Can bring him to his sweet locked up treasure

The which he will not every hour survey.

For BLUNTING the fine point of seldom pleasure.. 


William Shakespeare Sonnet 52


  Sonnet 52 was written to the Dark Lady -  and Shakespeare is  bawdily playing on the names of  her two lovers Robert Rich and Charles Blount. 


The Fair Youth was William Herbert ?

This is a most divisive issue among  Stratfordians so sorry if this is rather  long ... I personally don't like William Herbert as The Fair Youth for a number of reasons.  First of all The First Folio is not dedicated to William Herbert alone it is dedicated  to  'the incomparable pair of brethren' Philip Herbert and William Herbert . Why has it been dedicated to both brothers ? In his sonnets Shakespeare says he only loves The Fair Youth he mentions nothing at all about The Fair Youth having a brother.

 1: There is no evidence that Herbert was bisexual ,  It is almost certain that Wriothesley was and this was recorded by contemporary sources.

2 The passionate Pilgrim shows two of The Dark Lady Sonnets.  The  earliest intact version of The Passionate Pilgrim is dated 1599 but we know this was the second edition . The first edition must have been either early 1599  or late 1598. ( I date it to late 1598 in tandem with Richard Barnfield's poems in Diverse Humors). Francis Meres work Palladis Tamia states Shakespeare's sonnets are already in private circulation in 1598 . Mere's book was registered in September 1598. Therefore must have been written at the latest in August of 1598. This poses a number of problems. William Herbert is known not to have arrived in  London until Spring of 1598 at age 17.  This means the full events of the sonnets ( Procreation sonnets) Dark Lady sonnets  Rival Poet sonnets have all occurred in a highly compressed timeframe of less than five months.  ( Also there is no evidence that William Herbert had anything to do with or even knew  William Shakespeare in 1598) . Such a compressed  time frame  just doesn't gel with the sonnets especially sonnet 104 which suggests that Shakespeare has known The Fair Youth for three years. It is clear from the 1593 and 1594 dedications  that Shakespeare knew Henry Wriothesley for a minimum of two years. One of  The sonnets that does appear in The 1598=1599 Passionate Pilgrim is the Dark Lady sonnet 144 -Two Loves have I of comfort and despair; This sonnet describes The Fair Youth as a MAN right fair . In Elizabethan times 21 was the age a boy became a man . In 1598 Herbert was a boy of 17  but Wriothesley was a man of  21 in 1594 when Shakespeare dedicated The Rape of Lucrece to Him..In the procreation sonnets Shakespeare keeps comparing The Fair Youth to Narcissus - who also refused to take an interest in women.  To the best of my knowledge William Herbert was never formally compared to Narcissus but Henry Wriothesley was. In 1592 Wriothesley had a book of conduct literature written to him called Narcissus the dedication of this book clearly links Wriothesley to Narcissus. Narcissus was written by the secretary of Wriothesley's minder. ( William Cecil ) so clearly Cecil had some input into this work which again warns Wriothesley that if he will come to an unfortunate end if he keeps ignoring women.

3 Another problem occurs in The Procreation sonnets. Shakespeare speaks of The Fair Youth's parents. He speaks of The Fair Youth's mother in The present tense but of his father in the past tense ( You had a father) . This is problematic, Herberts father did not die until 1601. Yet The Dark Lady sonnets have been written  before 1601 are we to believe The Fair Youth has been in a relationship in 1598 then needs Shakespeare's encouragement in 1601 to start taking an intrest in women ? Wriothesley on The other hand still had his mother in 1594 but had lost his father when he was eight years old.

4 Herbert is known to have had an affair with Mary Fitton but this is not known to have occurred until 1600-1601. ( As we know  The Dark lady sonnets were already written by minimum of 1599) The other problem is that  in Sonnet 152 Shakespeare states that The Dark Lady has broken her bed vow in other words she is  an unchaste married woman.  Mary Fitton wasn't married  until 1605.

5 In  satirical The Parnassus plays a young and foppish Aristocrat with  military pretensions  is shown to worship Shakespeare and sleeps with a copy of Venus and Adonis under his pillow. This play contains a number of quotes from Venus and Adonis. ( A work we know was dedicated to the young Aristocrat Henry Wriothesley) . It is clear that this young aristocrat is intended to be Henry  Wriothesley. The Parnassus Plays were performed at St John's College  Cambridge  University. This was the same college that Wriothesley attended . Herbert attended Oxford  and maintained close ties with Oxford not  Cambridge University.

The Parnassus plays are dated 1598- 1602 . The young Aristocrat Gullio who worships Mr Shakespeare clearly thinks he is a military man . By 1602 Herbert had not been in active military service but  Wriothesley had been involved with Robert Devereux's military  campaigns in  1593 , !596 and in 1597 and 1599 . Gullio brags about his huge role in a number of campaigns  and mentions  the Cadiz campaign and also that he has recently been in the Irish  campaign . It is noted that both of these campaigns were lead by Robert Devereux and also that Wriothesley had  recently been in Ireland in 1599 to support Robert Devereux's Irish campaign. William Herbert certainly wasn't in Ireland in 1599 so this foppish character cannot be William Herbert -  so there is an outstanding case for this young Aristocrat to have been Wriothesley. If this is the case then there is evidence of a close friendship between Shakespeare and Wriothesley- a  situation that is also alluded to in Willobie His Avisa. If Wriothesley and Shakespeare were close friends then there is an outstanding chance that The Fair Youth of Shakespeare's sonnets was  Henry Wriothesley..

6 In Sonnet 13 Shakespeare warns The Fair Youth that his Fair House will fall into decay ( ie will be irretrievably ruined) if he does not produce a son. This was absolutely correct for Henry Wriothesley who was the sole male heir  of the Wriothesley family and the only possible holder of the titles Baron of Titchfield and Earl of Southampton these titles definitely  would have  become extinct if he did not produce a male heir. Herbert on the other hand had a younger brother (Philip Herbert ) and so  the consequences of him not producing a male  heir were not so dire and the house of Herbert was in no danger of  falling into decay.

7 No contemporary evidence of Shakespeare and Herbert being in any kind of triangular relationship.  But Willobie His Avisa suggests a triangular relationship between The Old Player mr WS and The young aristocrat H.W. and an unchaste woman in 1593- 1594 timeframe. Thomas Nashe also drops a hint that Wriothesley is in a triangular relationship in 1593.This timeframe is too early to be referring to William Herbert but is entirely possible for Henry Wriothesley.

8 The First Folio was published 7 years after Shakespeare's death it contains no personally written  statement by  Shakespeare that he had any affection for William Herbert. Shakespeare's sonnets and all of his poetry are absent from this work- it is clear Shakespeare's poetry was significantly more important to him than his plays were. The complete absence of any of Shakespeare's sonnets in The First Folio is  problematic. In his sonnets Shakespeare says that he is writing to immortalize the Fair Youth . If these sonnets were written for Herbert then why have all of them been left out of The First Folio ? We need to look at what else was omitted from the the First Folio . - Obviously Shakespeare's two long poems Venus and Adonis and Rape Of Lucrece  are both absent  . We know these were not written for William Herbert- these were written for the original Fair Youth - Henry Wriothesley. and this is probably why they were not included . I think  Shakespeare's sonnets were also not written for William Herbert and this is why it was not appropriate for them to be included in the first Folio. In addition Herbert and Wriothesley were known to be quite close friends  again if they were close friends and the sonnets had been written for Wriothesley  it would not be appropriate to include them in the first Folio which was dedicated to Herbert..

Shakespeare's poetry was published during his lifetime. More than half of Shakespeare's plays were unpublished in his lifetime. Shakespeare never dedicated any poetry to William Herbert.

.The only person Shakespeare ever dedicated anything to was Henry Wriothesley and in these dedications he describes his endless love for Henry Wriothesley. 

9 In sonnet 135 Shakespeare states that The Dark Lady  thinks of him as being an unlettered youth. Why would the Dark Lady think Shakespeare to be a youth if she was younger than him ?  In 1599 Fitton was twenty one  and  Shakespeare was  35 .This situation is  unlike Penelope Rich who was older than Shakespeare . Shakespeare's description of The Dark Lady is far more consistent with an aging and corrupted muse than a young woman in the prime of her youth . Shakespeare constantly calls The Fair Youth young but doesn't once call The Dark Lady young and if anything in sonnet 138 Shakespeare insinuates that The Dark Lady lies about her age. Shakespeare  was frustrated a number of times with The Fair Youth's immature attitude  and states as much ( some say thy fault is youth) , Shakespeare was very angry with The Dark Lady , if the Dark lady was fourteen years his junior why is he not also cursing her youthful  immaturity ? An interesting point to note  is that virtually all of the Dark Lady candidates are significantly younger than Shakespeare  . Penelope Rich is one of the very few candidates who was older than Shakespeare. Another observation is that Shakespeare's insecurity about being considered an unlettered youth by The Dark Lady is a hint that The Dark Lady herself was very highly educated . This was certainly correct for Penelope Rich who was fluent in four languages  and was known to have been exceptionally intelligent and witty.In sonnet 125 Shakespeare describes the Dark lady as beauty slandered with a bastards shame. This could  be a hint that The Dark lady had an iligetimate child. Again this is problematic for Herbert and Fitton. We know that Mary Fitton had Herberts illigetimate child in 1602- this was her first child. but The Dark Lady sonnets have been written by 1598-99 . The sonnets encourage The Fair Youth to have children but make no mention of the possibility that The Fair Youth has had a child with The Dark Lady . On the other hand Penelope Rich already had an iligitimate child to Charles Blount in 1592 .  


10 in sonnet 70 Shakespeare reveals that The Fair Youth has been slandered. There is no evidence that William Herbert was targeted in any libels , Herbert is recorded as being liked by all people. However  a young  aristocrat  H.W along with an Old Player  W.S. were made to look very foolish in the 1594 libel Willobie His Avisa. The Parnassus Plays also seemed to make Wriothesley a figure of fun.

11 William Herbert was himself an accomplished writer of songs and poetry as contemporaries attest...In Athenæ Oxoniensis, Anthony Wood describes Pembroke's status among his contemporaries: "He was not only a great favourer of learned and ingenious men, but was himself learned, and endowed to admiration with a poetical geny, as by those amorous and not inelegant aires and poems of his composition doeth evidently appear; ( Pembroke had a volume of his poetry published)

Shakespeare makes no mention at all of The Fair Youth having any kind of poetic  talent , indeed The foppish  young aristocrat  lampooned in The Parnassus plays needs poetry to be written for him to enable him to woo a woman. - This wouldn't have been the case for the poetic William Herbert.

12 There certainly was a connection between  Shakespeare and the Herberts, and their long-standing generosity towards the playwright is  noted in the dedication of The First Folio  as their ‘servant Shakespeare’. As Heminges and Condell wrote, ‘your [lordships] have been pleased to think these trifles something heretofore, and have prosecuted both them and their author living, with so much favour [that …] the Volume asked to be yours’

 Reading this the reader would be convinced that Herbert and Shakespeare had always been on the closest of possible terms  but what is important to remember is that Shakespeare was a servant to whoever the Lord Chamberlain was .The Position of Lord Chamberlain was responsible for Court entertainments, the public theatres and the publication of plays. And often acted as a patron for these acting troupes.  William Herbert when he became The Lord Chamberlain had control over The Kings Men ( who had formally been known as Lord Chamberlain's men).  

 As such Shakespeare would have been considered a servant of the Herberts but so would all of the other members of The King's Men.  Shakespeare  would have known and likely had dealings with William Herbert  but it is important to note that Shakespeare would not have become a servant to William Herbert until Herbert became Lord Chamberlain, which was not until December  1615 This was only four months before the death of William Shakespeare, Herbert held the position of Lord Chamberlain  for ten years.  Shakespeare never acknowledged that he was a close friend of The Herberts.  This was unlike his fellow actors  Hemmings and Condell who both stated that they were friends of the Herberts. Ben Jonson was a close friend of  William Herbert.  William Herbert openly mourned the passing of Richard Burbage but has nothing to say about the death of Shakespeare.

 There is no record of him  being  particularly close to  Shakespeare. By  December 1615 Shakespeare  was living in Stratford  and  by this stage would  have only been nominally  involved with the Kings Men. Herbert made no London monument for Shakespeare and doesn't  give a testimonial about Shakespeare in  The First Folio. Shakespeare is thought to have gone into semi retirement by approximately 1610 therefore. It may well have been that William Herbert was actually closer to the other members of The Kings Men such as Hemmings Condell and Burbage  than Shakespeare himself.

Certainly these people were his servants for a longer time than Shakespeare was.The person Herbert appears to have been particularly close with was Ben Jonson who boasted that Herbert provided him with twenty pounds a year to buy books. Jonson also entertained Herbert at his home and wrote praise of Herbert. But Shakespeare never  formally praised Herbert or acknowledged receipt of any gifts from Herbert.

My suspicion is that Herbert actually favoured Jonson over Shakespeare and that this situation may have caused some friction between Jonson and Shakespeare. In The First Folio Jonson gives a eulogy to Shakespeare but the eulogy is somewhat condescending and Jonson certainly takes a few shots at Shakespeare. ( This was in rather poor taste given that Shakespeare being dead could not answer) . Revealingly. In his final  Will and testament  Shakespeare mentions Hemmings Condell and Burbage as his fellows and clearly was close to and trusted these people but he doesn't  name  Jonson or state any affection for  Ben Jonson .

The  First Folio was not published until seven years after Shakespeare's death . Perhaps the reason for this rather significant  delay was that by this time Condell Hemmings and Jonson were all nearing retirement themselves and knew that Shakespeare's work was still marketable therefore prepared The First Folio as a method of helping to fund their own retirement.

Some people seem to think that the moment  William Herbert arrived in London (1598) he had automatically become Shakespeare's best friend and  Patron. Herbert was not Shakespeares patron in 1598 . In 1598 Shakespeare was a servant to The Lord Chamberlain who at that stage was  his patron George Carey  and remained  Carey's servant until  1603. There is no evidence that Herbert had become particularly close with Shakespeare in the early stages of his arrival in London. Only one connection is seen and that was when The Kingsmen performed at William Herbets Family seat Wilton House in December 1603.

However it must be remembered that The Kingsmen were only performing at Wilton House at this date because King James was visiting Wilton therefore they would have been obliged to perform there . It certainly isn't evidence of a close friendship between Shakespeare and Herbert. Or of any attempt by Shakespeare to win Herberts patronage.In contrast  Shakespeare  clearly was  attempting to win the patronage of Henry Wriothesley in 1593-4.

 Herbert  certainly did have an interest in actors and the theatre and  it was probably  around the  1603 -1604 timeframe  that he started to actively  interact with members of The Kingsmen and Ben Jonson. At this time The Lord Chamberlain was Lord Thomas Howard . Herbert did want to become Lord Chamberlain and actively lobbied for the position however he only achieved this title in 1615 with the  personal support of Queen Ann.

Some proponents of William Herbert seem to suggest that his Mother Mary Herbert had commissioned Shakespeare to write The 17 procreation sonnets on William Herberts 17th birthday in 1597. Herbert s parents were trying to arrange a marriage between Herbert and Bridget de Vere  when Herbert was 17 (1598)  but again this is problematic   in The procreation sonnets Shakespeare refers to The Fair Youth's Father in the past tense . We know Herberts father was alive in 1598 and  didn't die until 1601. In any case what would possess Mary Herbert to employ Shakespeare to encourage William Herbert to marry ?  Shakespeare was not himself  an outstanding  example of marital fidelity  ( in his sonnets he reveals that he has had many affairs) and he was known for his lurid  verse that rather sensationalized  rape and extra marital sex. Also what evidence suggests that  the number of procreation sonnets ( 17) is a magic number that  automatically corresponds with the age of The Fair Youth??? We know that  Wriothesley against all advice  was refusing to marry up to and beyond the age of 21 . People who insist that only 17 procreation sonnets are present seem to be ignoring the fact that although sonnet 20 is a homoerotic sonnet it is also a sonnet encouraging The Fair Youth to take an interest in women therefore could also be grouped with The procreation sonnets.

. If 17 does  have a special significance it may be that it represents the age that Wriothesley was first asked to marry. William Cecil had forwarded his Granddaughter Elizabeth de Vere to Wriothesley in 1590 ( When Wriothesley was 17) and had been pressurizing him to marry her for the next four years.

In addition the sonnet craze was  winding  down by 1598 but was at its peak in the 1593-4 time frame. From 1599 onwards Shakespeare was opening a major new theatre ( The Globe) and would have been extremely busy. The Globe ran plays every day of the week , as well as this Shakespeare was working at Blackfriars Theatre. Apart from being a playwright Shakespeare was also an Actor and a businessman . The Globe was also in fierce competition with other theatres so Shakespeare  would also have been under a great deal of pressure to write and stage new plays.

I think  that from 1599 onwards Shakespeare would have been incredibly busy and very pressured  but he doesn't mention this in his sonnets.

In the 1592-94 time frame however the theatres were shut and Shakespeare would have had far more  time to have written a full sonnet sequence.

12 We need to look at some of  Venus and Adonis...


Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it be
That thou shouldst think it heavy unto thee?
'Is thine own heart to thine own face affected?
Can thy right hand seize love upon thy left?
Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected,
Steal thine own freedom and complain on theft.
Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook.
'Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear:
Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse:
Seeds spring from seeds and beauty breedeth beauty;
Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty.
'Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou feed,
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead;
And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.'

There is a clear procreation message embedded in the text here and  theme of this  verse is identical to the verse seen in The Procreation Sonnets directed at The Fair Youth  . The description of Adonis is identical to The Fair Youth. Also we are seeing Adonis being compared to Narcissus who is the person Shakespeare compared The Fair Youth to..We need to remember that Venus and Adonis was written in 1593 and was addressed to the fair youth Henry Wriothesley. And crucially at this time  Henry Wriothesley WAS refusing to marry. I find the line Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty. most interesting because it is urging Adonis ( The Fair Youth) to become a begetter himself we are immediately reminded of the dedication of  Shakespeare's sonnets which describes Mr WH  as the only begetter of the sonnets. We know that in 1593 Wriothesley was reneging on his contract to marry Elizabeth de Vere his minder ( William Cecil) granddaughter. Wriothesley would not have failed to appreciate the encrypted  procreation message in Venus and Adonis. It has been suggested that Wriothesley was an avid play goer and had seen some of Shakespeare's plays when Shakespeare was  under Lord Strange  . If Wriothesley admired Shakespeare's work William Cecil may have commissioned him to help in the effort to encourage Wriothesley to marry... I think this suggestion has real merit. Cecil was adamant that Wriothesley marry de Vere and was already putting significant pressure on Wriothesley by allowing his estate to fall into disrepair .In 1592  the  alarmed young Earl wrote to Michael Hicks, Burghley's confidential servant, asking him to use his influence with Burghley, to avoid 'the greate decay and daunger' which threatened much of his inheritance through lack of maintenance.

 Shakespeare also  warns that The Fair Youths house is in danger of falling into decay.


What I notice when reading Venus and Adonis is that Shakespeare appears to be trying to please two people

1 : He has placed a procreation message in thios poem and does depict the youth Adonis coming to grief after rejecting a woman.  Also his dedication  to Wriothesley finishes with the words The world's hopeful expectation. Katherine Duncan Jones interprets The world's hopeful expectation as being  Wriothesleys agreement to marriage  - I agree with this interpretation.  So I think that Shakespeare was trying to please whoever had commissioned this work . The person most likely to have commissioned this work is William Cecil who was known to employ poets to further his own ends. 

Cecil kept close ties with the poets and often used them for his own ends. He used both Nashe and Greene to write counter libels in the Martin Marprelate crisis. He   had already employed his secretary  George Clapham to write Narcissus a poem that had  tried to persuade Wriothesley to marry this poem did not achieve its desired goal .

 So it may have  been that Cecil decided to step up his procreation rhetoric and employ Shakespeare to  write the procreation sonnets. I date The procreation sonnets to 1592  ( After Clapham's Narcissus and before Venus and Adonis)  It is possible that it was  through William Cecil,that Shakespeare first  met Wriothesley.  In Venus and Adonis and also in The Procreation sonnets Shakespeare is also  clearly trying to stay onside with Wriothesley. So in Venus and Adonis Shakespeare appears to be playing both sides of the fence.

I suspect Shakespeare was commissioned by Cecil  to write Venus and Adonis and The procreation sonnets by William  but that  the plan backfired Shakespeare and Wriothesley became firm friends , Shakspeare kept writing sonnets to Wriothesley but  Shakespeare had fallen in love with Wriothesley and his sonnets were veering away from the original procreation  message.  

13 : It is certain that Wriothesley was a long term  admirer of Shakespeare's work .  Wriothesley entertained Queen Anne. With Shakespeare's Loves Labour Lost for a performance that  occurred at his own home. 

The date of this performance was January 1605  this time frame significantly over laps with the time that Shakespeare was supposedly  William Herbert's "best friend".

14 : Portraits of William Herbert suggest a dark haired man. Shakespeare constantly describes the Fair Youth as being Fair . Shakespeare compares The Fair Youth's hair to buds of Marjoram,  Marjoram buds have a curled appearance and  are a light  brown - Auburn  colour which is the same hair colour that Henry Wriothesley had.Wriothesley also had curly hair.  



 Marjoram buds.


Henry Wriothesley.

To sum up I do not dispute that Shakespeare had some contact with William Herbert but  I think that the person that Shakespeare  loved was Wriothesley and that   Wriothesley is a far better candidate to be The Fair Youth and  historical libels and statements by contemporary poets point to  this being the case.


 The love I  dedicate to your Lordship is

without end ...

William Shakespeare.

Wriothesley was the only Fair Youth  that  Shakespeare ever stated   he loved 





Why is The Affectionate Shepherd a libel on Penelope Rich ?

The Affectionate Shepherd ( 1594) is clearly a libel on Penelope Rich and she would have personally recognised it as being such. ( The Folger library states that she was personally displeased with the book).

 The leading female character of The Affectionate Shepherd ( Guendolen) is depicted as being a particularly beautiful but unchaste woman. By 1594 dark rumours were starting to arise about the unchaste behaviour  of Penelope   Rich the Affectionate Shepherd's dedication is a cynical and ironic dedication that compares Penelope Rich to the Goddess Vesta who was renown for her chastity.

In addition the work praises Philip Sidney but also states that because of his doomed love for Stella his life was made a misery.

This is a certain affront to Penelope Rich . Penelope Rich was the real life  Stella of the Astrophil and Stella sonnet sequence.

She would have immediately realised that the author of The Affectionate Shepherd was blaming her for the downward spiral that the revered Philip Sidney plunged into following her marriage to Robert Rich. The lead female character of The Affectionate Shepherd Guendolen is clearly intended to represent Lady Penelope Rich and the book treats her with great disdain.


You Believe The Poem A Lover's complaint is referring to Philip Sidney and Penelope Rich ?


With A Lovers Complaint Shakespeare is rewriting the Legend of Pamphilus and Dido . This story came from the medieval text  Pamphilus De Amore in Inglish Toung.

Sidney was very familiar with this story and made his own variation of this tale in book two of The Countess of Pembrokes Arcadia.

Shakespeare was known to be very familiar with Sidney's works and Sidneys influence on Shakespeare was very pervasive. Shakespeare based the sub -plot of King Lear from the revised version of Sidney's arcadia  this is the same book  in which the Pamphilius / Dido story appears.

Most variations of the Pamphilus myth run along the lines of Shakespeare's version whereby which a philandering young man loves a beautiful woman but he is not wealthy enough  or of high enough birth to be an acceptable suitor  The Young man  betrays the  young woman who ultimately forgives him and they are married .

Many fellow poets wrote about Philip Sidney and gave him the disguise of Astrophil and Sidney himself placed his own alter egos into his Arcadian romances

Edmund Spencer in his Astrophil a Pastoral Elergie  wrote of Sidney as being an Arcadian  Shepherd who was greatly admired by many female suitors who brought him gifts but he did not care for these woman and had a religious love for Stella for whom he wrote hymns of immortal praise.


I don't think that Shakespeare accepted the commonly held perception of Sidney as the Gentleman poet and may have seen him as a man ruled by  strong and sometimes Dark  passions. I think he viewed Penelope Rich in the same fashion.In  A Lover's Complaint  he casts Sidney in the pastoral ( and non -idealised ) disguise of Phamphilus  . Shakespeare's description of Pamphilus is in keeping with the mythological persona but has been heavily infused with Sidney's own personality. Stella is depicted as being older and disillusioned.  The poem is one that describes religious love that has been interrupted by other people but the two will eventually reconcile and be married in Arcadia.

With  A Lover's Complaint Shakespeare solves The Dark Lady problem for both himself and The Fair Youth by poetically giving her back to the man she should have been with - Phillip Sidney. It is a magnanimous gesture that enabled Shakespeare to move forward with his life.

A Lovers Complaint is the final chapter of  the Astrophel and Stella  sequence. Shakespeare gives Sidney his happy ending but Shakespeare was clearly distressed when he wrote this poem and he  nearly loses control of the poem in a number of places -  it is his most emotional poem.



 Does Willobie His Avisa contain a hidden homoerotic subtext ?

 Willobie His Avisa is a hidden libel , and the question that it may also be running a hidden homoerotic dialogue is a fascinating possibility.

I tend to think that a subtle homoerotic dialogue does exist but it is rather subtle  and to see it we need to consider the text in its entirety. First of all I consider Hadrian Dorrell to be the true author of the libel and I also think that the full libel has been written By Hadrian Dorrell out of concern for the young and very good looking aristocrat H.W. Hadrian is a name that comes with homosexual connotations and Emperor Hadrian was a homosexual who was a great admirer of the Fair Youth Antinious. If Hadrian Dorrell was compelled to write a book length libel out of concern for the welfare of H.W. we would have to question just how deep Hadrian Dorrells feelings were towards H.W. I think Hadrian Dorrell was  an admirer of the Fair Youth H.W. in the same way that Emperor Hadrian was an admirer of the Fair Youth Antinious.

In H.W.'s final words inopem me copia fecit. ( my Riches make me poor)  is a quote from Ovid's Narcissus . Narcissus was traditionally a figure of homoerotic desire . Narcissus's love of him self translating to love of the same ( Elizabethan code for homosexuality).

In addition Avisa is constantly refered to as an Eagle . The image of a Fair Youth being abducted by a predatory Eagle is a clear allusion to the Ganymede myth ( Ganymede was a Fair Yoth who Jupiter loved and had abducted by an Eagle.

Barnfield often wrote of the youths of homoerotic desire such as Narcissus but his full sonnet sequence was written to Ganymede.


Willobie His Avisa is a highly mysogynistic work , Hadrian Dorrell dedicates the work to all women and claims that it is celebrating the only beautiful and chaste woman left in England . It quickly becomes apparant that  Dorrell hates beautiful and unchaste women and also it becomes apparent that Avisa is an unchaste woman all along this gives us the impression that Dorrell is himself a highly mysogynistic person who thinks that  all attractive women are whores. Dorrell is very familiar with authors of highly mysogynistic  literature such as Friar Mauntauns invectives and Juveniles satires . The work Willobie his Avisa takes a number of quotes from Spensers Shepherd's Calendar  a work that describes Gabrial Harveys homosexual  love for Edmund Spenser and also from Catullus who was also an author of homoerotic verse. Richard Barnfield wrote the most explicitly homoerotic literature ever seen in the Elizabethan age but his mindset seems to be identical to that of Hadrian Dorrell. Barnfield was highly mysogynistic and fiercly hated beautiful women. ( who he regarded as all being whores) .His greatest hatred was for beautiful unchaste women who seduced attractive young men.Like Dorrell Barnfield was fully familiar with very mysogynistic literature which was both classical and contemporary.






The Rival Poet was Richard Barnfield ?

The discovery that an Elizabethan writer  other than Shakespeare wrote a major poetic sequence to Henry Wriothesley is a new discovery. George Klawitter ( The modern editor of Richard Barnfield) realized over twenty years ago that Henry Wriothesley was an outstanding candidate to have been Barnfield's Ganymede.

The Rival Poet is clearly writing homoerotic verse to woo a young fair headed and blue eyed aristocrat.

The Rival Poet was Richard Barnfield. The Fair Youth Henry Wriothesley. 


There have been many attempts to identify the people mentioned in Shakespeare's sonnets what makes your interpretation the correct one ?

If the events that are outlined in the Shakesperean sonnets  did occur then independent contemporary evidence that confirms  that these events occured needs to be forwarded.

Willobie His Avisa and The Affectionate Shepherd ARE referring to the events outlined in the sonnets and they have been written in the CORRECT timeframe within which we can link Shakespeare to Henry Wriothesley.

Willobie His Avisa and The Affectionate Shepherd have been written by the same author and are both clearly  attacking Penelope Rich and William Shakespeare.

It is quite an irony that the only two books that can shed light on the enigimatic work that is Shakespeares sonnets are both themselves very opaque and mysterious.

Fortunately Willobie His Avisa is a significantly easier work to understand than Shakespeare's sonnets. ( Once we understand the mechanism of ironia that has been employed in this libel).

Willobie His Avisa is attacking the leading lady of the Essex circle Lady Penelope Rich this means that The Young Aristocrat H.W. and his actor/poet friend W.S. HAVE GOT TO BE  EXACTLY WHO WE THINK THEY ARE , namely Henry Wriothesley and William Shakespeare.

The Sonnets of Shakespeare's can definitely be solved if  contemporary , independent corroborating evidence is presented  .

Independent contemporary  corroborating evidence existed all along the problem was that it was that it was not being interpreted in the correct fashion or  appreciated in its correct historical context.

That the protagonists of Shakespeare's sonnets are now  known is a claim that I can and do make. 




Why is Avisa not Queen Elizabeth 1st ?

When I first started reading Willobie His Avisa  I thought that this was the case too but we notice that Avisa is a thirty year olf married woman . This was correct for Penelope Rich who in 1594  was 30 and had been married for over ten years . But in 1594 Queen Elizabeth was single and aged 61.

It is very certain who Avisa is , the central argument of the book is that Poor untitled  chaste Avisa cannot be compared to Rich Titled Unchaste Penelope

Or in other words

Chaste Avisa poor cannot be compared to Unchaste Lady Penelope Rich.

But as we carefully research the text it soon becomes obvious that Avisa is a hypocrite  with a rolling eye who continually acts in an unchaste fashion.

This gives us the hint that the full book has been written in Ironia ( An ironic style of writing where the author is actually meaning the very opposite of what he is saying.

So the translation of the Statement

Chaste Poor Avisa  cannot be compared to Unchaste Lady Penelope Rich


Chaste Avisa Poor IS Unchaste Lady Penelope Rich.

Simple as that.

Avisa does sign her letters with the Queen's personal motto  " Always the same "  ( Always constant) Avisa

But if we realise that the full book has been written in ironia then what the author is really implying is that Avisa is signing her letters with the motto   Never the same  or ( Always Inconstant ) Penelope .

Penelope Rich is being depicted as the queen of inchastity.

The full libel has been deliberately written to make readers think that it IS referring to the queen the reason why this was done was to increase the publics interest in the book , this worked and the book became a best seller. 

The full device of a chaste woman who rebukes a string of multinational suitors and who uses the queen's personal motto would naturally make all Elizabethan readers think that the book was referring to the queen but this was simply an attention seeking device.

When we read the text carefully we realize that the book is NOT about  a woman who is empowered by her ideals of chastity rather it is a libel targeting an immoral and unchaste woman who is making a cuckold of her husband.



Mathew Roydon and not Richard Barnfield is normally forwarded as being the author why did Roydon not author this work ?



Roydon didn't write Willobie His Avisa. The author is a young poet who clearly went to Oxford University with Henry Willobie. 

Barnfield was a peer of Willobie at Oxford. Roydon did attend Oxford but it was 13 years prior to Henry Willobie attending.

Roydon has no motive for writing such a libel he was a well respected and mature writer he wrote about Penelope Rich in his Elegy to Philip Sidney but he  described her in a positive light and stated that it was no sin that she loved him. This is in very stark contrast to the author Of Willobie His Avisa  and The Affectionate Shepherd who clearly detests Penelope Rich and openly blames her for the death of Philip Sidney.

Barnfield was demonstrably a libel writer who did not like Penelope Rich. When we understand the real agenda of the H.W. dialog in Willobie His Avisa we appreciate that its REAL function is to dissuade Henry Wriothesley  from entering into a relationship with Penelope Rich.

Roydon had no motivation to do this but Barnfield DID. Barnfield was a homosexual who explicitly and openly stated his love, lust and concern for Wriothesley and his profound distrust of unchaste Lady Penelope Rich.

Barnfield's complaint against Henry Wriothesley was that Wriothesley was a close friend of William Shakespeare and a lover Of Penelope Rich.

Barnfield wanted Wriothesley to leave both people and enter into a relationship solely with himself.

This was the central agenda to which Barnfield was working towards. 

Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere wrote Shakespeare and Willobie His Avisa is referring to him  and his wife Elizabeth Trentham.

. The Oxfordian interpretation of this book is that H.W. was competing for W.S's wife Avisa who was Elizabeth Trentham.

I don't remotely subscribe to this , H.W. and W.S. are indeed competing for the affections of the same woman but  NOWHERE in the book is there any indication whatsoever that W.S. is the husband of Avisa. W.S. is simply depicted as an unsucessful suitor .

We must remember that a major facet of the Libel Willobie His Avisa was to uncover to the reader the true nature of William Shakespeare and uncover his duplicity and immoral nature.

If W.S. was really an aristocrat in disguise then this libel would be looking to reveal this as well but there is no hint in the W.S. section that W.S. was classically educated or particularly wealthy. What it does say about W.S. is that he was a selfserving person who was infatuated with Avisa and that other people had laughed at his infatuation and Avisa had unrelentingly rejected him.

This does not sound like a man who was married to Avisa , and W.S. is not shown as having any great riches or estates to offer Avisa he is simply depicted as an immoral actor and poet.He is the only suitor who other people have laughed at  this hints that the infatuation was either  impossible or inappropriate.


The writer of Shakespeare's sonnets clearly has an enormous respect and admiration for the sonnet sequence of Philip Sidney because he keeps making quotes from them I believe Shakespeare has used Sidney's Astrophil and Stella sequence as the template for his own sequence.

Penelope Rich would have known Edward de Vere but it is highly unlikly that she would have particularly liked him. Sidney and de Vere  had a ferocious argument in which Sidney challenged de Vere to a duel. A challenge de Vere backed away from.   Penelope and  Sidney were lovers  and her father was  in favor of Sidney  marrying her. Following his argument with de Vere  Sidney  had to withdraw from Elizabeth's court and there was ongoing bad blood between the two men.Penelope would have known that both men hated each other  and  it is most unlikely that she would have had any  affection for a person who had caused social disgrace to her former lover.

Penelope Rich cannot be historically linked to Edward de Vere but Henery Wriothesley was  certainly a close friend of Penelope Rich.


If Barnfield was so infatuated with Henry Wriothesley why did he not personally dedicate his work to him ?

Barnfield  knew that if he openly dedicated homoerotic prose to an Aristocrat he could be imprisoned and such an action would  be socially ruinous to the Aristocrat and would  entirely preclude any chance that the Aristocrat would offer him any form of patronage.

Shakespeare also knew this this is why he never formally identified Henry Wriothesley as being the Fair Youth . Barnfield also does not formally dedicate his poetry of desire to Henry Wriothsley but what he DOES do is write about The Fair youth in situations that he knew Wriothesley would instantly recognize as alluding to himself and would understand that the forbidden poetry of homoerotic desire was being directed at him.


Has Penelope Rich been forwarded as the Dark Lady before ?

Absolutely. The Shakesperian scholar Gerald Massey firmly believed Penelope Rich to be the Dark Lady however he matched her with William Herbert I do not subscribe to this theory.

The Irish Writer James Joyce also believed Penelope Rich to be the Dark Lady .

In recent times the Shakesperian Scholar Ian Wilson was the first person to tie Penelope Rich to the Libel Willobie His Avisa  I have great respect for Ian and agree that The book Willobie His Avisa is referring to Penelope Rich however I diverge sharply from some of his findings and dont agree with his interpretation of the work or his naming of some of the suitors.

I am  first person to forward Richard Barnsfield as being the author of this work .

From the sonnets we are told that the Dark Lady is a musical woman with black eyes who is an adultress and has been involved in significant scandal. She is a woman who moves in the same circles as the  Aristocratic Fair Youth  and she captivates everyone who comes under her spell.

She is a woman who has been "slandered by a bastard's shame" in other words has an  illegitimate  child .  

A great poet has written great poetry about her and much punning is made on her surname Rich.

It is clear from the sonnets that this is The leading lady of the Essex circle Penelope Rich.

From the sonnets it is clear that Wriothesley and Shakespeare were very close friends and confidantes . Shakespeare would have met Penelope Rich through his friendship with Wriothesley.

Shakespeare would have definitely been attracted to her because he would have known that she was the personal muse of Philip Sidney a writer that he clearly revered. Penelope Rich had very considerable beauty and was a very intellectual person who enjoyed the company of artistic people. 

You say that Barnfield hated Shakespeare but Barnfield praised Shakespeare and his work in 1598

Correct but we need to put this praise into its correct context. Barnfield has a proven record of offering insincere and ironic praise this is well demonstrated in The Affectionate Shepherd. anyone reading the dedication to this work in isolation would believe that Barnfield had great admiration for Penelope Rich however when we read the book it is very clear that he is attacking her and thinks that she is an unchaste and immoral woman.

He is using the same trick with Shakespeare in Poems of Diverse Humors 1598 Barnfield praises Sidney, Spencer, Drayton and Shakespeare we observe that in this meritocracy he places Shakespeare last. He also refers to Shakespeare's death stating that his body may well die but his fame will be immortal it is very premature to be speaking about Shakespeare's death at this stage.

Barnfield also offers praise of Shakespeare's leading female characters of his long poems Venus who he calls sweet and Lucrece who he calls chaste.

We know this is not sincere because Barnfield had a particular problem with beautiful unchaste women who tempt attractive young men and Venus certainly comes under that category. We also note that Shakespeare's Lucrece had been reinterpreted in the Libel Willobie His Avisa as being an unchaste woman who made a cuckold of her husband.

Shakespeare would have known that Barnfield was libeling him and would have known that he was the author of both The Affectionate Shepherd and Willobie His Avisa scholars think that Barnfield and Shakespeare were close friends I think nothing of the kind and think that the real nature of their relationship was adverserial.

In his work Poems of Diverse humors 1598 Barnfield is doing two things . 1 he is making a false offering of peace so that the reading public would think that the two were on good terms with each other.

2 He is setting a trap In the work Poems of Diverse humors he writes some of his most accomplished poetry( It fell upon a day )etc,  

Early the next year these poems suddenly appear under the name of William Shakespeare in the work The Passionate Pilgrim

It is clear what agendas Barnfield was working to  he first wanted people to think that he was a kind person who admired Shakespeare and his work then he wanted to publicly depict Shakespeare as an unprincipled plagiarist who unscrupulously stole the younger poet's best work and claimed it as his own.

Another interesting point is that in "The Praise " that Barnfield offers Shakespeare makes a play on the words Ever and Never  it is noted that these are also the final words of the libel Willobie his Avisa  ( which ends with the phrase Ever or Never) so what this may well be is a snide referencing back to the Libel Willobie His Avisa a libel where Barnfield reveals what he REALLY thinks about William Shakespeare.

The Passionate Pilgrim is a libel directed at William Shakespeare?

Absolutely , The Passionate Pilgrim is not a random collection of poetry rather it is a libel that has been engineered by Barnfield to depict Shakespeare in a negative light.

The libel is functioning to 1 Expand on Robert Greene's original argument that Shakespeare was a plagarist.

2 To insinuate that Shakespeare was overrated as a writer

3 To reveal that Shakespeare was an immoral person.

4 To cynically rewrite Shakespeare's long poem Venus and Adonis in a misogynistic style.  

The work contains poems from Marlowe and Raleigh that have only been slightly rewritten readers would immediately recognize that these were not  Shakespeare's work.

Barnfields best poetry appears in the work  this poetry has only recently been published. The insinuation is that Shakespeare has stolen the work of a younger poet who admired him and claimed his work as his own.

All the works that are by Shakespeare are depicting Shakespeare as being either a second rate writer or as being an immoral person.

The works from Shakespeare are examples of deliberately poorly written and comical poetry that has come from Love's labor lost  . These are unfairly contrasted with Barnfield's own work and Barnfield is writing at the height of his art.

Two of Shakespeare's sonnets appear but both depict him in a negative light. One Two loves have I demonstrates that he will betray The Fair Youth in favor of The  Dark Lady, this is the original argument that was forwarded In Willobie His Avisa. The second shows him admitting that he is old and also his contemptuous opinion of The Dark Lady ( Penelope Rich ) who he considers to be a liar.

This selection of his sonnets has been taken out of context and is actually showing Shakespeare to DISLIKE the two people that he purports to love.

The poem Whenas Thine eye hath chose the dame also makes an appearance this is the poem that W.S. makes quotes from in Willobie His Avisa. 

Why is Avisa's husband never seen ?

Avisa's husband is seen , He is the first suitor - The Nobleman . Avisa  is very familiar with this "suitor" and hates him more than any of the other suitors. The Nobleman likewise hates  and is the only suitor who has such  hatred for Avisa.   However a hint is given that these two were previously more affectionate   Avisa tells him that he was once her friend but that now she hates him. The Nobleman also tells Avisa that he had given her his heart but now he also hates her . This could be correct because Penelope did have five children  to Robert Rich.The Nobleman is accused by Avisa of seeing other women and the Nobleman likewise accuses Avisa of seeing other men. This state of affairs was correct for Lord Rich and Penelope. they were married but both were seeing other people during their marriage.. Both the author and  Avisa insists that her marriage is very strong and that she is completely constant  but none of the suitors seem to think this  and a number of the suitors reveal that Avisa keeps her suitors for a long time. I agree with the suitors and think that Avisa's protestations of chastity are a sham and that she is in an open marriage. 


If we read the text at face value Avisa's husband is never seen and is only spoken about by Avisa who insists that she loves him and  will never betray him . However Avisa maintains" her chastity" without either his concern or assistance. What this is implying is that Avisa's husband is simply doing his own thing and allowing Avisa to also do her own thing. The poem ironically states that Avisa is always at her country  home with her husband and is never seen in the towns dressed  in gorgeous gowns . This was not the case for Penelope Rich who was highly independent and  refused to play the role of a country wife and kept her position in Elizabeth's court. Penelope was known to travel alone something almost unheard of  for a woman in Elizabethan times.

In other words they are married but are living separate lives . This was exactly the case for Penelope and Robert Rich. Their marriage was a marriage in name only and towards the end of their relationship  both were effectively  effectively living separate lives. Also Avisa's carefully cultivated appearance of being in a perfect marriage rings true to Penelope and Lord Rich. These two apparently never argued in public and to all intents and purposes gave the outward appearance of  being happily married . However the poets (notably George Peele) knew this wasn't really the case.