THE MONUMENT has been gaining increased attention for its presentation of a complete explanation of Shakespeare's Sonnets and its introduction of an entirely new biographical-historical context. We are thankful for the growing acclaim; even more gratifying is the continually growing interest in this solution to the "puzzle" of the Shakespeare sonnets.
"While I always loved the language of Shakespeare's Sonnets, I had more or less given up on them. They were obviously deeply autobiographical, but to what and to whom did they they refer? Were they heterosexual love poems or, as commentators reluctantly came to assume, homosexual tracts directed to the Earl of Southampton who had been the dedicatee of the two long poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece? But how did the latter jibe with the failure of anyone to come up with a connection between the man from Stratford and the Earl? And what sense did it make when the first sonnets were addressed to a young man urging him to marry and reproduce himself? And what about the "rival poet" and the "dark lady" who appear in the later sonnets? Many commentators have given up in despair and the orthodoxy became that the autobiography was irrelevant to the poems which had to be read things in themselves without outside reference. So I gave up. Until, that is, I looked into Hank Whittemore's 'The Monument.'
"Whittemore works from the assumption that "Shake-speare" was a pseudonym for Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. The reasonihg behind this has moved from "crank" status to a new kind of orthodoxy, and indeed is all that makes sense of the disrepancy between the life of the man from Stratford and the poems and plays. We can't look at all the evidence and argument here, but we can look at how this assumption helps to explain the content of the sonnets. Whittemore sees them as a chronological series directed by Oxford to Southampton, who was his son by Elizabeth I, secretly put out for fosterage with the Southampton family. This is the famous "Prince Tudor" hypothesis, and before readers throw up their hands they should look carefully at the evidence. I would have dismissed it as improbable except for the fact it does indeed make great sense of the sonnets. The first set about the failure of the young man to marry for example: directed by the Stratford man to Southampton they make little sense and are positively impertinent, but seen as directed by a father to the son he could not acknowledge, but whom he passionately wanted to perpetuate the Tudor dynasty and so ensure his own position as potential King (Henry IX) they fall into place. Add to this that the proposed bride was Oxford's daughter (whom he did not believe was his biological child) and the matter becomes alarmingly obvious. The one hundred central sonnets that follow this series Whittemore shows to be a chronicle of the days spent in prison (the Tower) by Southampton under sentence of death from Elizabeth for his part in Essex's rebellion - one of the jurors in the trial being Oxford himself. The "dark lady" series refers to Elizabeth herself, and the "rival poet" is of course the adopted persona "Shakespeare" behind which Oxford was forced to hide.
"Whittemore takes each sonnet and goes through it line by line showing the code or special language that Oxford used and which explains so much of the persistent imagery of the poems. He examines and cross-references the usages to all the "Shakespeare" works, and includes a detailed chronological history of the historical events that parallel the action of the sonnets, ending with the death of Elizabeth and the dramatic pardoning of Southampton by James I when he ascended to the throne of England. At this point Oxford, as part of the deal with Robert Cecil and James had to completely abandon any ambitions for his son ("I must not evermore acknowledge thee...") and leave the Sonnets as the only "Monument" to the truth.
"This is a huge book and a huge enterprise. A shorter version evidently exists that leaves out the details and references, but the reader who is willing to be patient will, as I did, get thoroughly enthralled with the details of the evidence. As poem after poem emerges making complete sense in the context of its writing vis-a-vis the tormented life of the young Earl of Southampton and the agony of the father who could not acknowledge him but loved him with a moving and desperate devotion, a picture of great drama and passion emerges.
"Given the unorthodox theory that he is supporting, Whittemore needs to go to these extraordinary lengths to be convincing. He will be challenged of course, and rightly so. Sometimes he might be overanalyzing and putting too much faith in the sonsistency of the "code." "Beauty" might always refer to Elizabeth, but sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar. Even so, any critic is going to have to show in the same massive detail why he is wrong. This is not a work that can be dismissed as the Baconian codes and cyphers were (rightly) dismissed. When, as in sonnets 30 to 35 for example, the exact reference to the trial of Southampton and Oxford's agonizing part in it become obvious, I have a vast sense of relief, of insight. At last it makes sense. The reader does not need to look at every last note to each poem. Once you get the idea it is enough to read the poem, read the Wittemore' "translation" and get the historical (day by day) context. The notes are there for further referrence and for the scholars.
"This is an immense work of scholarship, of a very rare kind, one that serves the reader as a source of revelation, and the scholar as a mine of information and dispute. You may not buy it all - and you will have to work at understanding the basic premiss and clear the mind of the cant associated with standard "Shakespeare" biographies, but for all those who like me have been frustrated by a failure to make sense of the most profound autobiographical sequence in any literature, this is a powerful breath of fresh air. If the poems were "Shake-speare's" Monument, then this magnificent book is Hank Whittemore's own Monument and will itself father many distinguished offspring as its possibilities are realized."
Dr. John R. Fox
"Not to put too fine a point upon it, not only has Hank Whittemore shaken the spear of scholarship at Shakespeare’s authorship, but his huge and stunning masterpiece has shaken this reviewer with new vision and insight..."
Janet Hamilton for MyShelf.com
"THE MONUMENT shows connections and brings to our attention echoes between the Sonnets and Elizabethan poetry, history and other Shakespearean works ... It is difficult if not impossible to dismiss Whittemore's thorough illustrations of Oxford's [Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford's] poetic method ... Ultimately his reading of the 'story' told by the Sonnets is very persuasive."
Washington State University
The Rocky Mountain Review
of Language and Literature
"Whittemore's approach to the Sonnets infuses new life into an old subject by genuinely solving problems, by unifying facts otherwise disparate and unconnected, and by providing genuine explanations where otherwise we find mere descriptions. This is the hallmark of a right-headed theory. What more could one ask for?"
Michael Brame & Galina Popova
University of Washington
Athors of the groundbreaking
"It has become increasingly clear that THE MONUMENT has opened a new doorway leading to previously unexplored pathways for studies of the Shakespeare works. Meanwhile, it's also clear that the orthodox version of Shakespearean biography is not only filled with flights of contradictory fancy but is in serious crisis, whether its practitioners know or admit it. The implosion of the "Stratford" author is coming sooner than many might realize, and THE MONUMENT is hastening the long-needed paradigm shift in terms of our perception of Shakespeare and his real-life involvement in a yet incompletely-understood Elizabethan Age.
"In particular, THE MONUMENT convincingly demonstrates that more than half of Shakespeare's Sonnets are focused upon the Earl of Southampton during his imprisonment for the Essex Rebellion -- a giant leap of recognition by Whittemore that allows Shakespeare's autobiographical testimony to emerge. It was Shakespeare himself -- Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford -- who promised Southampton:
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read...
"And now his promise, thanks to Whittemore's explication of the Sonnets, is coming true."
Prof. Daniel Wright, Ph.D.
Department of Humanities
Concordia University, Portland, OR
"Shattering the 400-year-old fraudulent myth that an uneducated butcher¹s
apprentice and grain merchant from Stratford-on-Avon wrote the great works
of Shakespeare requires either smoking gun evidence or powerful research.
"That combination is finally here, in a scintillating analysis of the true
meaning of Shakespeare¹s 154 Sonnets, which reveal his inner soul to the
world, identifying himself as Edward de Vere and the main object of his
beautiful poetry as his own son, the Third Earl of Southampton, true heir to
the Tudor throne because his mother was Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen.
"Hank Whittemore¹s THE MONUMENT is a compelling mystery story, a stunning drama, and a brilliant exposé of the Western World¹s longest-running hoax."
Dr. Paul Altrocchi
& author of
Most Greatly Lived,
a biographical novel
Edward de Vere as "Shakespeare"
"It is gratifying to read so many other reviews that agree on the importance of Hank Whittemore's latest book, THE MONUMENT, on Shakespeare's Sonnets. What Whittemore has accomplished is nothing short of breath-taking. He has achieved in the literary realm what Thomas Kuhn so excellently described for science 40 years ago: a paradigm shift, where it takes a totally fresh view, unencumbered by the assumptions and prejudices of a given field of inquiry, to solve what are otherwise perceived in the profession to be unsolvable questions.
"THE MONUMENT will some day, probably rather sooner than later, come to be hailed as the most important work of Shakespeare scholarship ever written. By rights it should share this honor with Thomas Looney's 1920 book that first identified Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the flesh-and-blood man behind the 'William Shakespeare' alias.
"Perhaps the coming wide circulation of Whittemore's book will re-stimulate interest in Looney's groundbreaking work, on the shoulders of which The Monument stands, but in the end, it will be THE MONUMENT that will be far more widely read, and which will finally put the great Shakespeare controversy to rest.
"It will do this by presenting an airtight case for exactly what SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS are about, what each line of every sonnet means in the context of a unified theory of what the entire 154-sonnet cycle is about, and in so doing reveal that only one person in Elizabethan England could have been the author, and that person was not William Shaxpere (a.k.a. "Shakespeare") of Stratford-upon-Avon, the putative author bequeathed to us by tradition."
"Whittemore's MONUMENT is a monumental work in every sense of the word. Finally, after 400 years, the Sonnets of Shake-speare have found a worthy interpreter, one who has been able to discover their original historical and political context and so reveal their true meaning."
Author of the acclaimed biography Nell Gwyn
"Wordsworth wrote: '...with this key, Shakespeare unlocked his heart.' I believe that with this key (THE MONUMENT), Hank Whittemore has unlocked the heart of the Sonnets."
-- K.C. Ligon
Actress and author of Isle of Dogs,
the prize-winning play about Edward de Vere
"Whittemore's MONUMENT illuminates the Sonnets as no other book in four hundred years."
-- Dr. Charles V. Berney
Founding President, The Shakespeare Fellowship
"Hank Whittemore's suitably magnificent tome attempts to demonstrate how the sequence of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets charts the changing feelings of Edward de Vere towards his unacknowledged royal son, Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton. The bulk of the poems deal with the period when the younger earl was languishing in The Tower under sentence of death. This study is one of the first to address the sequence and to explain their published order ... The Sonnets will not be quite the same for me again ... Powerful stuff."
KEVIN GILVARY (from his review in the DVS Newsletter)
Newsletter of the De Vere Society of Great Britain
"Hank Whittemore's work THE MONUMENT is the Rosetta Stone that allows us to translate Shakespeare's autobiography."
Author of Conversations With Great Thinkers
"I have come to believe that the Whittemore solution to the Sonnets is absolutely correct. In short, once one has 1) the correct author, 2) the correct Fair Youth and Dark Lady, and finally, 3) the all-important correct historical context, then reading the Sonnets becomes as clear and uncomplicated as reading a signed, dated letter to a known addressee about the events of the day.
"Whittemore's theory is that all 154 sonnets are in authorial order, that nearly all were written or rewritten in the last three years of Oxford's life, that they are addressed to the Fair Youth (Southampton) and the Dark Lady (Queen Elizabeth), and they are concerned almost exclusively with the politics and aftermath of the Essex Rebellion -- its purpose, its disastrous failure, the treason trial, Southampton's death sentence, his eventual release from prison and pardon, the poet's observations on their shared guilt and shared shame over Southampton's 'crime,' the poet's bittersweet advice and admonitions on how his son should now live his 'second' life, and finally -- in the Dark Lady sequence -- his bitter (without the sweet) rage at their mutual betrayal by Elizabeth.
"It's all politics, mixed in with the personal views of the writer and expressed through the grand language and philosophy we all know as 'Shakespearean'."
Founding Editor, Shakespeare Matters
Newsletter of the Shakespeare Fellowship
"Whittemore has now completed his massive writing project, THE MONUMENT, an exegesis of the content of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS, an interpretation involving, at its heart, the 'Prince Tudor' theory, one which has a goodly number of both supporters and detrators among Oxfordians. This theory views Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, as the child of Queen Elizabeth and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and finds numerous allusions to this relationship in the Sonnets as well as elsewhere in the Shakespeare canon. The matter is one of great controversey among Oxfordians...
"As reported by the Oxfordian scholar Peter Moore, 'Shakespeare's autobiographical Sonnets pose such problems for the Stratfordian theory that since around 1960 the story behind them has been declared off-limits by the orthodox authorities...
"One is haunted by the possibility of being beguiled into seeing things that weren't really intended by the poet. However, consider this: Leslie Hotson declared in 1964 that the poet was addressing the younger man literally as his sovereign."
Richard Desper, PhD
Review in Shakespeare Matters