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The Earl of Oxford on Page 139 of Love’s Labour’s Lost

Updated: Jun 9

In this post a solution is presented to a word puzzle found in the First Folio of Shakespeare (1623) on page 139 of the Comedies, a page from Love’s Labour’s Lost. The solution to the puzzle results in the message OXE-AN-FORD, the title of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.


In the lines, Berowne says that the purpose of study is to know “things hid & bard” from common sense. I noticed, and I am sure others have noticed this as well, that the words “hid & bard” sounds like “hidden bard.” Thus, the lines hint at the possibility of knowing the name of the hidden bard who wrote Shakespeare.


The other interesting thing is that the words “when Mistresses from common sense are hid,” appear a few lines later. The reference to "common sense" in the two lines are nearly identical, so the lines seem to be related. The only scene in the play were mistresses or ladies are hidden appears at Act V, scene 2 (pages 138-139 of the Comedies), where the Princess of France and her ladies wear masks before meeting the disguised King of Navarre and his lords. Therefore, the lines about the “hidden bard” and the hidden mistresses hint that the name of the hidden poet can be found somewhere in Act V, scene 2, on pages 138-139 of the Comedies. This post solves a puzzle on page 139 indicating that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is the “hidden bard” Shakespeare.


As previously mentioned, the puzzle solved in this post is found in Act V, scene 2, Love’s Labour’s Lost, pages 138-139 of the Comedies, Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623). At this point in the play, Ferdinand, the King of Navarre, and his men arrive, disguised as Muscovites, at the tents of the Princess of France (later the queen) and her ladies. However, the princess and her ladies have been warned of the king’s approach by Boyet, the witty attendant of the princess, and are themselves masked. To add to the confusion, the princess and Lady Rosaline exchange favors so that they outwardly appear as to be each other. The king and his men enter, and battle of wits ensues between the men and the women. The men wrongly assume they have correctly identified each of the women, and the women thoroughly thrash the men in the battle of wits.


The puzzle examined in this post appears in this part of the exchange between the men and the women:


Du. Will you vouchsafe with me to change a word?

Mar. Name it.

Dum. Faire Ladie:

Mar. Say you so? Faire Lord:

Take you that for your faire Lady.

Du. Please it you,

As much in priuate, and Ile bid adieu.

Mar. What, was your vizard made without a tong?

Long. I know the reason Ladie why you aske.

Mar. O for your reason, quickly sir, I long.

Long. You haue a double tongue within your mask.

And would affoord my speechlesse vizard halfe.

Mar. Veale quoth the Dutch-man: is not Veale a

Calfe?

Long. A Calfe faire Ladie?

Mar. No, a faire Lord Calfe.

Long. Let's part the word.

Mar. No, Ile not be your halfe:

Take all and weane it, it may proue an Oxe.

Long. Looke how you but your selfe in these sharpe

mockes.

Will you giue hornes chast Ladie? Do not so.

Mar. Then die a Calfe before your horns do grow.

Lon. One word in priuate with you ere I die.

Mar. Bleat softly then, the Butcher heares you cry.

Boyet. The tongues of mocking wenches are as keen

As is the Razors edge, inuisible:

Cutting a smaller haire then may be seene,

Aboue the sense of sence so sensible:

Seemeth their conference, their conceits haue wings,

Fleeter then arrows, bullets wind, thoght, swifter things

Rosa. Not one word more my maides, breake off,

breake off.

As a reference, here is an image of pages 138-139 from the Comedies section of the First Folio where the exchange appears:





The first thing to note is that this scene involves a battle of wits, so there is an incredible amount of wordplay. For the purposes of the hidden messages in the scene, some of the wordplay is found by translating the text into French. This is hinted at earlier in the scene in these lines:


Rosa. What would these strangers?

Know their mindes Boyet.

If they doe speake our language, 'tis our will

That some plaine man recount their purposes.

Know what they would?


The play is set in Navarre, France, so Rosaline’s language is obviously French. It is also noteworthy that the word “plain” can be translated into “franc” in French, so “plaine man” alludes to a Frenchman speaking French. The word “recount” may also allude to Edward de Vere’s last name. The words “count” can be translated into “verifier,” so “recount” (to count over) seems to be a French/English wordplay – VERifier oVER (for “duex VER,” or “de VERE”).


Now we turn to a detailed analysis of the text shown above that begins with “Will you vouchsafe with me to change a word?”. Reading through the lines, the word that really sticks out is the word “Oxe” in the phrase “… it may prove an Oxe.” Based on previous work, we know that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is hinted at as the true writer of the works of Shakespeare. The problem is that the text only mentions an ox as a taunt to the king and his men, and there are apparently no letters spelling “ford” to make the word Oxford. (Oxford actually signed his name Oxenford). So, the text seems to invite examination to find the missing letters spelling “ford.”


In the opening line, “Will you vouchsafe with me to change a word?”, the text hints that some sort of word change is required. But what word needs to be changed?


The next line, spoken by Maria, is “Name it.” The word to be changed is about to be named, and it will probably be the second word spoken, because “it” is the second word in “Name it.” In addition, "Name it" hints that the wordplay will lead to revealing a name -- the name of the "hidden bard."


Dumaine responds with “Faire Lady.” Thus, the key word seems to be “Lady.” However, there is a twist. Maria responses with –


Mar. Say you so? Faire Lord:

Take you that for your faire Lady.


Maria changes “Faire Lady” to “Faire Lord.” Maria has changed a word, as requested, and no the key second word is “Lord.”


At this point, Dumaine is flummoxed and at a loss for a reply. Maria taunts him about it:

Du. Please it you,

As much in priuate, and Ile bid adieu.

Mar. What, was your vizard made without a tong?


(There may be a clue in this, but if there is I have not identified it. I suspect the lines are just a transition to facilitate more clues.)


At this point, Lord Longueville jumps into the fray with Maria –


Long. I know the reason Ladie why you aske.

Mar. O for your reason, quickly sir, I long.

Long. You haue a double tongue within your mask.

And would affoord my speechlesse vizard halfe.


I believe that the “O” exclamation may represent the number zero (0). The word “cipher” can mean “nothing” or “zero.” Thus, the lines may mean “a cipher for you reason” (i.e., “a cipher for you to figure out”). Another interesting thing is that Edward de Vere’s code number was forty (40), and, as posited by Alexander Waugh, he was associated with the number 1740 (his earl (17) and code number(40)) in the hidden messages. (See previous posts for a further explanation.) The words “O for” read backwards are “for O,” which is a homonym of “four O” (40), or forty. Thus the first part of the sentence may contain the message “[the] reason [is] your 40.” Furthermore, the 17th word after "O for" is "affoord."The 40th word from "affoord" (counting "Dutch-man" as one word) is the word "prove," in the phrase "prove as Oxe." Thus, the numbers associated with Edward de Vere -- 17 and 40 -- lead here to the missing word "ford," which when combined with the words "an Oxe" solves the puzzle by revealing the title/name "Oxe-an-ford" or "Oxford."


However, there are more clues in lines that lead to the same result, so let's continue the analysis.


The last two lines, spoken by Longueville, mentions a “double tongue,” which is an obvious allusion to there being a double meaning to the text. The final line is very interesting –


Long. You haue a double tongue within your mask.

And would affoord my speechlesse vizard halfe.


The word “affoord” contains the letters “ford,” the second half of “Oxford,” and the word “halfe” alludes to the fact that only half of the word “affoord” is required (i.e., “ford”). (The “O for your reason” line might also be a hint to examine the word “affoord” because “affoord” is misspelled with an extra “O.”) As shown previously, the word "affoord" can be identified with a word count of 17 from the words "O for."


The next line begins with Maria mentioning “veal,” which is a play on the Dutch word “viel,” meaning much or plenty. Maria is making fun of the idea that she has too many tongues and is being too witty. However, the lines begin new and subtle part to the puzzle.


Mar. Veale quoth the Dutch-man: is not Veale a

Calfe?

Long. A Calfe faire Ladie?

Mar. No, a faire Lord Calfe.

Long. Let's part the word.

Mar. No, Ile not be your halfe:

Take all and weane it, it may proue an Oxe.

Long. Looke how you but your selfe in these sharpe

mockes.


This part of the puzzle transforms “Lord Calfe” into “Lord Oxford.” The key to the solution starts with Longueville’s line, “Let’s part the word.” He is saying, in more modern language, “Lets leave the word behind,” “Let’s forget the word.” However, the word “part” alludes to parting or dividing a word. The idea of leaving a word “behind” may also be intended in that we are looking for the behind part of “Oxford” – we are looking for “ford.” (Previously in the scene the ladies turn their backs to the men (humorously showing their backsides), which visually hints at the search for the rear end of "Oxford.)


At this point, Maria says, “No, Ile not be your halfe…”. Then she says, “Take it and weane it, it may prove an Oxe.” To wean a calf, the calf’s mother’s milk is taken away and is replaced with solid food.


The rhyme in Maria makes alludes to a letter change. Her line “No, Ile not be your halfe…” makes a rhyme by changing the first letter of “Calfe” to make the word “halfe.” In a simple cipher of the Elizabethan alphabet, that is a plus five place letter shift:


C = 3;

3 + 5 = 8;

8 = H


As shown previously, the key word that needs to be changed is the word “Lord.”


If a plus five letter shift (Elizabethan alphabet) is applied to the first letter of the key word “Lord,” the nonsensical word “Qord” is the result.


However, Maria says that she will NOT be Longueville’s halfe. This hints that the letter shift should be reversed, or made into a negative five letter shift, and then applied to the first letter of the word “Lord.”


L = 11;

11 – 5 = 6;

6 = F


(Note, that the letters "I" and "J" were spelled as "I," so "I/J" is the 9th letter in the Elizabethan alphabet.)


Applying the change, “Lord” becomes “ford.”


Putting the pieces together, “an Oxe” can be transformed into –


“OX-EN-FORD” (Lord Oxford).


The final line is sort of the punch line, I guess:


Long. Looke how you but your selfe in these sharpe

mockes.


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is making fun of himself.


Another set of clues pointing out the puzzle and its solution can be found later on page 139 in these lines:


King. Faire sir, God saue you. Wher's the Princesse?

Boy. Gone to her Tent.

Please it your Maiestie command me any seruice to her?

King. That she vouchsafe me audience for one word.

Boy. I will, and so will she, I know my Lord. Exit.

Ber. This fellow pickes vp wit as Pigeons pease,

And vtters it againe, when Ioue doth please.

He is Wits Pedler, and retailes his Wares,

At Wakes, and Wassels, Meetings, Markets, Faires.

And we that sell by grosse, the Lord doth know,

Haue not the grace to grace it with such show.


In this part of the scene, the King, no longer disguised, returns to the tents of the princess and her ladies and is greeted by Boyet, the attendant of the princess.The king requests “one word” with the princess, and Boyet finishes his response with “I know my Lord.” This exchange hints at the key word – “one word; I know [, it's] my Lord.”


Berowne then complains about Boyet helping the ladies with his excellent wit. In doing so, he uses the word “utters,” which sounds like “udders,” and alludes to a calf being weaned. He says that Boyet sells his wit at “retail” at “Faires” while the king and his men “sell by gross, the Lord doth know.” The Oxford world puzzle begins with these lines –


Du. Will you vouchsafe with me to change a word?

Mar. Name it.

Dum. Faire Ladie:

Mar. Say you so? Faire Lord:

Take you that for your faire Lady.


The mention of selling at “Faires” points to the beginning of the Oxford word puzzle. “Selling at retail” alludes to selling at a discount, or reduction, as in a sale, to induce purchases. “Selling at gross” refers to selling without reduction. All this suggests the letter reduction and letter exchange to transform the words “Faire Lord” into “Faire Lord Oxenford.” The phrase, “the Lord doth know” again refers to the letter exchange to transform “Lord” into “ford.”


As additional evidence, I will present the results of using a compass to draw circles on pages 138-139. I use three different circles of set radii to find puzzles.


On page 139 the word “Roses” appears three times. In a simple cipher of the alphabet, the letter “C” is the third letter (C = 3). There for the three appearances of the word “Roses” appears to represent the “Rose Cross,” or “R.C.,” which is the symbol of the Rosicrucians.


In addition, the word “Roes” appears (Roe is a type of deer). The word “Roes” is in effect the word “Rose” hidden in a homophone. Alexander Waugh has posited that Edward de Vere was associated with the hidden fourth “T” in the Triple Tau cross. The appearance of the hidden “Rose/Roe” seems to again point at Edward de Vere.


The first image below shows a circle drawn from the first appearance of the word “Roses,” with a second circle drawn from the “hidden” word “Roes.” (The circles are of a set radius that I call the “marke vpon him…two courses off” circle. I explain how I discovered it in other posts.) The circles intersect or cross at the line “Take all and weane it, it may proue an Oxe.” This is the final line in the puzzle solved in this post.






The image below shows a circle drawn from the “hidden” word “Roes” on page 139 and a circle drawn from the word “crosse” on page 138 (Rose Cross).(The circles are of a set radius that I call the “marke vpon him…three courses off” circle, which is slightly larger than the “marke vpon him…two courses off” circle.I explain how I discovered it in other posts.)The circles intersect at the lines on page 139 where there is wordplay about “Veale,” “Lord Calfe,” and an “Oxe.” This is probably the most significant part of the puzzle.I do not believe these intersections are random. I think they were intentionally arranged.


The two images below show a circle drawn from the line beginning the puzzle, which mentions changing "a word," a circle drawn from the word "Oxe," and a circle drawn a line mentioning "one word."(The circles are of a set radius that I call the “marke vpon him” circle, which is smaller than than the others circles in the previous images.I explain how I discovered it in other posts.)


The circle drawn from the word "Oxe" intersects the word "affoord." I thing the other circles intersect the word "affoord" because they mark the beginning and end of the puzzle. (There also seems to be some significance to "one word." Perhaps this is to emphasize the significance of the one word solution -- Oxford.)




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