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Henry Wriothesley, Edward de Vere, and Queen Elizabeth I in The Merchant of Venice

In this post I am going to discuss a message hidden in the lines shown below that appear on page 173 of the Comedies, The Merchant of Venice, in Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623). The manner in which the message is hidden and revealed is truly ingenious. However, first, I must provide background information to set the stage before explaining the solution. Please bear with me, the wait will be worth it.

I have already posted an analysis of interesting Rose Cross messages on page 173 in this post:

https://hiddenmessagesinshakespeare.blogspot.com/2022/01/rose-cross-rosicrucian-puzzle-on-p-173.html

It is not absolutely necessary to review the post at the link above before reading this post, so you can save it for later, or you may read it as preliminary post to this one.

For this post, I will be revealing a message hidden in Shylock’s famous “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech:




Sal. Why I am sure if he forfaite, thou wilt not take

his flesh, what's that good for?

Shy. To baite fish withall, if it will feede nothing

else, it will feede my reuenge; he hath disgrac'd me, and

hindred me halfe a million, laught at my losses, mockt at

my gaines, scorned my Nation, thwarted my bargaines,

cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, and what's the

reason? I am a Iewe: Hath not a Iew eyes? hath not a

Iew hands, organs, dementions, sences, affections, passi-

ons, fed with the same foode, hurt with the same wea-

pons, subiect to the same diseases, healed by the same

meanes, warmed and cooled by the same Winter and

Sommmer as a Christian is: if you pricke vs doe we not

bleede? if you tickle vs, doe we not laugh? if you poison

vs doe we not die? and if you wrong vs shall we not re-

uenge? if we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you

in that. If a Iew wrong a Christian, what is his humility,

reuenge? If a Christian wrong a Iew, what should his suf-

ferance be by Christian example, why reuenge? The vil-

lanie you teach me I will execute, and it shall goe hard

but I will better the instruction.

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Internet Shakespeare Editions, edited by Janelle Jenstad, Folio 1, 1623, old-spelling transcription, Comedies, p. 173, University of Victoria, 1 Nov. 2019, internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/doc/MV_F1/complete/index.html. Accessed 6 Feb. 2022.

More specifically, a message is hidden in and around these lines of the speech:

…warmed and cooled by the same Winter and

Sommmer as a Christian is: if you pricke vs doe we not

bleede?...

Id.

The three lines shown immediately above fall on the 40th through the 42nd lines from the top of the left-hand column of the page. The words “Winter” and “Sommmer” (misspelled in original) fall on the 40th and 41st lines, respectively.

Background:

In Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the largest grouping of sonnets (18-126) is known as the “Fair Youth” sonnets. The “fair youth” is unnamed and his identity is the subject of debate. One candidate for the fair youth is Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. The pronunciation of Wriothesley’s last name is uncertain: /ˈrɛzli/ "Rezley",/ˈraɪzli/ "Rizely" (archaic), /ˈrɒtsli/ (present-day) and /ˈraɪəθsli/ have been suggested. Wikipedia contributors. "Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Nov. 2021. Web. 6 Feb. 2022. (citations omitted).

In the sonnets, the “fair youth” is compared to, or associated with, summer. Probably the most famous example of this is Sonnet 18:



SHall I compare thee to a Summers day?

Thou art more louely and more temperate:

Rough windes do shake the darling buds of Maie,

And Sommers lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heauen shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd,

And euery faire from faire some-time declines,

By chance,or natures changing course vntrim'd:

But thy eternall Sommer shall not fade,

Nor loose possession of that faire thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wandr'st in his shade,

When in eternall lines to time thou grow'st,

So long as men can breath or eyes can see,

So long liues this,and this giues life to thee,

Shakespeare, William. Shake-speares Sonnets. Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria, Quarto I (pub. William Aspley), 1609, https://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/doc/Son_Q1/complete/index.html. Accessed 3 Feb 2022.

As far as I know (but I am not an expert), the author of the sonnets does not directly compare himself to winter, but he frequently associates himself with that season.

During preparations to write this post, I was contacted by Ms. Jan Cole. Ms. Cole has been a member of the De Vere Society since 2011 and has had several articles published in the DVS Newsletter and online at their website. Her research is mostly about Edward de Vere's life and connections, and how these relate to the Shakespeare canon. When studying the play Loves Labor’s Lost she found a number of allusions to French literature current when de Vere was in France in 1575. See her essay in DVS Newsletter vol.22, no.1, January 2015, pp.32-37 (unfortunately unavailable online to non-DVS members at the time of writing).

Ms. Cole helpfully provided the following information:

'Winter' in French is 'l'hiver', a pun on Vere, which parallels the Latin 'Ver' meaning 'spring', also a pun on Vere. This Latin-French cross-punning appears at the end of 'Love's Labours Lost' in the 'spring and winter' songs. The French poet, Jacques d'Yver, also punned on his name in the title of his 1572 book, 'Le Printemps d'Yver' (literally, 'the Spring of Winter'), the title of which may be alluded to in this part of the play. If the 'spring and winter' song of 'Love's Labours Lost' contains an allusion to this book, there is an allusion to two surnames that are homonyms formed by cross-punning in Latin and French, since 'ver' is Latin for 'spring' and 'hiver' is French for 'winter'. Translated into English, this give two surnames that are antonyms. To have two surnames that are simultaneously synonyms and antonyms (sounding the same but meaning the opposite) is rare….[A]ny multi-lingual reader aware of Vere references would probably understand 'winter' (when translated into French') as a reference to him.

Thank you, Ms. Cole!

For reasons of space, I will not include the 'spring and winter' songs at the end of 'Love's Labours Lost' in this post. However, the song is well worth the read, and the puns referred to by Ms. Cole are obvious. There is similar French punning between the Clown and Cleopatra in the “joy of the Worme” scene in Act 5, scene 2, of Antony and Cleopatra. “Worm” in French is 'ver de terre,' an obvious pun on the last name of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

In addition, it seems that there is a hidden “signature,” of sorts, in Sonnet 63, which mentions spring (in French, a pun on Oxford’s name). This hidden "signature" links Edward de Vere to the authorship of Sonnet 63, and the sonnets generally:




AGainst my loue shall be as I am now

With times iniurious hand chrusht and ore-worne,

When houres haue dreind his blood and fild his brow

With lines and wrincles,when his youthfull morne

Hath trauaild on to Ages steepie night,

And all those beauties whereof now he's King

Are vanishing,or vanisht out of sight,

Stealing away the treasure of his Spring.

For such a time do I now fortifie

Against confounding Ages cruell knife,

That he shall neuer cut from memory

My sweet loues beauty,though my louers life.

His beautie shall in these blacke lines be seene,

And they shall liue , and he in them still greene.

Shakespeare, William. Shake-speares Sonnets. Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria, Quarto I (pub. William Aspley), 1609, https://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/doc/Son_Q1/complete/index.html. Accessed 3 Feb 2022.

The “signature” can be found as follows. On the ninth line of the sonnet the word “fortify” appears. Fortify is pronounced “Forty-fie” or “40-fie.” “Fortifie” is the 8th word of the sentence in which it appears. Thus, the seventh word of the sentence, immediately preceding “fortifie,” is the word “now.” Immediately preceding the word now is the word/capital letter “I”. The letter “I” is frequently uses to represent the number one (1) in the page numbering of the First Folio. Therefore, the letter “I” and the 7th word of the sentence, “now,” can represent the number 17.

Furthermore, the letter “I” in the ninth line falls immediately above the letter “g” in the tenth line. The letter “G” in simple gematria of the Elizabethan alphabet is the seventh letter of the alphabet, so there seems to be another number 17 encoded at this point of the text.

The “coincidences” continue to pile up. The 17th word of the sentence is “never,” which contains the letters EVER (VERE).

But wait, there’s more! The first part of the sentence reads, “For such a time do I now fortifie / Against confounding Ages cruel knife…” Reading this as a play on words, “do I NOW fortifie” can be read as meaning that the word “now” is literally “fortified” against some sort of attack. In military jargon, attacks on fortifications are designed to "reduce" them. And what is the word now fortified against? It is fortified against “AGES cruell knife.” Note that the capital “A” in ages looks like the edge of a sharp knife pointing at the “fortified” word “now.”

At this point, we just have to apply some simple gematria, addition, and subtraction. The letters of the word NOW in simple gematria, based on the Elizabethan alphabet, total 49:

((N = 13) + (O = 14) + (W = 21)) = 48

The letters in AGES total 31:

((A = 1) + (G =7) + (E = 5) + (S = 18)) = 31

Now all that is needed is to apply “AGES cruel knife” to cut out, reduce, or subtract the value of AGES from the value of NOW. Subtracting 31 from 48 leaves 17 (48 – 31 = 17). Another 17!

After all this, two numbers are revealed: 17 and 40. As Mr. Alexander Waugh has shown, the number 1740 is associated with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. The number 17 is Oxford’s “earl number” and the number 40 is associated with him being “The Fourth T” or “Forty.” Oxford also sometimes signed his name with a double letter V’s (double V). The simple gematria value of “V” in the Elizabethan alphabet is twenty, so two letter V’s equals 40.

(Mr. Waugh’s videos concerning Oxford and the number 1740 can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHN7SCKlsa9lPYJmqqQ2uIg).

Up to this point, it has been shown that the word summer is associated with the “fair youth” of the sonnets, and it has been shown that the words winter and spring are associated with Edward de Vere’s last name, through French punning. It has also been shown that Edward de Vere is linked, at least once, to the authorship of the Sonnets through a hidden signature in Sonnet 63.

As a side note, there is another mention spring (April) and summer on page 172 of The Merchant of Venice, the facing page opposite of page 173:

So likely an Embassador of loue.

A day in Aprill neuer came so sweete

To show how costly Sommer was at hand,

As this fore-spurrer comes before his Lord.

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Internet Shakespeare Editions, edited by Janelle Jenstad, Folio 1, 1623, old-spelling transcription, Comedies, p. 172, University of Victoria, 1 Nov. 2019, internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/doc/MV_F1/complete/index.html. Accessed 6 Feb. 2022.

The excerpt above, from page 172, will not be discussed further as it does not affect the outcome of the solution discussed below.

The Hidden Message on Page 173 of The Merchant of Venice:

To recap, the lines with the hidden message are in and around these lines on page 173 of The Merchant of Venice:

…warmed and cooled by the same Winter and

Sommmer as a Christian is: if you pricke vs doe we not

bleede?...

As shown above, the word winter is associated with Edward de Vere’s name, and the word summer (sommer) is associated with the “fair youth” of the sonnets.

The solution to this puzzle requires a basic knowledge of the main plot of The Merchant of Venice --

In the Merchant of Venice, Antonio and Bassanio are dear friends. Bassanio is without financial resources, but he needs money to travel to see the woman he loves, Portia, and contend for her hand in marriage. Antonio has good credit in Venice, so Bassanio asks Antonio to take out a loan and give the money to him so that he can become a suitor to Portia. Of course, Antonio, being a close friend, agrees.

Antonio and Bassanio approach Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Unfortunately, Antonio and Shylock have had disagreements in the past over the charging of interest (usance) on loans, and Shylock has deep hatred for Antonio. Shylock takes the opportunity to attempt to reap his revenge on Antonio.

Antonio and Shylock agree to the terms of a loan – a 3000 ducat loan to be repaid after three months. Surprisingly, Shylock does not ask that interest be paid on the loan. Instead, Shylock asks that the loan be secured by a pound of Antonio’s flesh nearest his heart. Bassanio recoils at this term of the agreement, but Shylock minimizes the significance of the provision as “mere merry sport.” Antonio agrees to the terms, and Bassanio gets his money and goes off to see Portia.

Unfortunately, at the end of three months, Antonio’s merchant ships have not arrived and are rumored to be lost. He cannot repay the loan to Shylock. To everyone’s horror, Shylock insists on strict enforcement of the terms of the loan (the bond), and he seeks to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio, which will, of course, kill Antonio.

Portia, who has married Bassanio in the meantime, comes to the rescue in disguise as a Doctor of Law. Although Portia rules in Shylock favor, and he may take his pound of flesh, Portia pulls a legal technicality out of her bag of legal tricks. The term of the bond agreement allows Shylock to take a pound of flesh; however, the bond is completely silent when it comes to allowing Shylock to shed Antonio’s blood. Shylock must take exactly one pound of flesh, any variation of weight, no matter how small, is prohibited. Furthermore, under Venetian law, shedding a drop of Christian blood is prohibited, and no alien may seek the life of a citizen, by direct or indirect means. Violations of either law requires that the property of the lawbreaker be confiscated. Shylock plans are thwarted. He becomes a Christian, and his property is put to productive use helping the other characters.

Now, on to revealing the hidden message in the lines of page 173 of The Merchant of Venice.

The key to the solution is the terms of the loan agreement (the bond) between Antonio and Shylock. These terms must be applied to the word “Sommer” and the words around it. Again, the lines are:

…warmed and cooled by the same Winter and

Sommmer as a Christian is: if you pricke vs doe we not

bleede?...

The word “Sommmer” is misspelled. It has three letter m’s rather than two. This is not an error. It is intentional and is the key to solving the puzzle.

In Roman numerals, the letter M represents 1000, and three letter M’s (MMM) represents 3000. This is the amount of the loan from Shylock to Antonio. The three letter m’s (MMM) in SOMMER representing 3000 ducats, must be “loaned out” of the word and metaphorically given to Antonio.

After the “loan,” the word SOMMMER becomes SOER. When these letters are unscrambled, they spell ROSE. Half the puzzle is now solved.

At the end of the loan period of three months (note that “three Months” alludes to 3 M’s, or MMM), Antonio could not repay the loan to Shylock. Similarly, the three letters MMM cannot be returned or “repaid” to the remaining letters (ROSE) from the original word SOMMMER.

In the play, Shylock sought to extract a pound of flesh from nearest Antonio’s heart, but he was prevented from doing so by the slick legal reasoning of Portia. Shylock could not take his pound of flesh because Venetian law, in part, strictly prohibited the shedding of Christian blood. However, for this puzzle, we get to metaphorically take our pound of flesh and shed some blood. Yippee! The “pound of flesh” and the spilling of blood comes from the word BLEEDE. The letters LEE need to be taken from center of the word BLEEDE -- the part of the word nearest its “heart.” In the process, much blood is metaphorically spilled from the word BLEEDE, which only seems appropriate.

Once the metaphorical “pound of flesh” (i.e., the letters LEE) is extracted from BLEEDE, the loan must be “repaid” to the letters ROSE (the letters remaining after the three m’s were “loaned out” of SOMMMER). When the letters are added to ROSE, the following message is revealed:

ROSELEE

ROSELEE is a homonym for one of the suggested pronunciations of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. As noted previously, Henry Wriothesley is one of the candidates for the identity of the “fair youth” from the sonnets. Because summer is associated with the “fair youth,” and a hidden message on page 173 of The Merchant of Venice associated with summer contains a message revealing the message ROSELEE, which is a homonym, of his name, I propose that this evidence shows that Henry Wriothesley is, in fact, the “fair youth.” (We also now know how to pronounce his name.)

The lines under discussion contain additional circumstantial evidence concerning Southampton. Since, as has been shown, winter is associated with the name of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and because, as shown above, Oxford is associated with the author of the sonnets, it can be concluded that the word winter in the lines on page 173 of The Merchant of Venice represent Edward de Vere (E. VERE). Substituting the letters E. VERE for the word “Winter,” the lines look like this:

Sal. Why I am sure if he forfaite, thou wilt not take

his flesh, what's that good for?

Shy. To baite fish withall, if it will feede nothing

else, it will feede my reuenge; he hath disgrac'd me, and

hindred me halfe a million, laught at my losses, mockt at

my gaines, scorned my Nation, thwarted my bargaines,

cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, and what's the

reason? I am a Iewe: Hath not a Iew eyes? hath not a

Iew hands, organs, dementions, sences, affections, passi-

ons, fed with the same foode, hurt with the same wea-

pons, subiect to the same diseases, healed by the same

meanes, warmed and cooled by the same E.VERE and

Sommmer as a Christian is: if you pricke vs doe we not

bleede? if you tickle vs, doe we not laugh? if you poison

vs doe we not die? and if you wrong vs shall we not re-

uenge? if we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you

in that. If a Iew wrong a Christian, what is his humility,

reuenge? If a Christian wrong a Iew, what should his suf-

ferance be by Christian example, why reuenge? The vil-

lanie you teach me I will execute, and it shall goe hard

but I will better the instruction.

As can be seen, when the letters E.VERE are inserted in the text, they fall near three occurrences of the words “the same,” and reveal the words –

EVER THE SAME

These words are the motto of Queen Elizabeth I – Ever the Same (Latin: ‘Semper eadem’).

A word – winter – associated with Edward de Vere is found near a hidden message, ROSELEE, a message that points to Henry Wriothesley as being the “fair youth, with the motto of Queen Elizabeth I hidden nearby, after logical changes to the text are made.

What does this mean? What significance, if any, should be assigned to the concept of blood being associated with Henry Wriothesley, Edward de Vere, and Queen Elizabeth I? Could Wriothesley be the son of Edward de Vere and Queen Elizabeth I as the Prince Tudor Part I theory proposes?

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