Reflections on my Southampton Project

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (circa 1618)

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (circa 1618)

After creating over 28 posts for my ongoing blog, Shakes-Query, I’ve completed my independent study focusing primarily on the assumption that Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton, was Shakespeare’s patron, as well as the poet’s muse.  I have read and referenced the following biographies:  The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton Shakespeare’s Patron by Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, and Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton, by J.P.V. Akrigg.

I also incorporated information from non-traditional Shakespearean sources including:  Charles Beauclerk’s Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom and Hank Whittemore’s The Monument:  “Shake-Speare’s Sonnets” by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.  Work on the project began during the summer but continued on throughout the fall semester.

As of this date, Shakes-Query has 183 followers and is constantly promoted via Facebook and Twitter.  My blog’s readership includes:  college and high school students, college professors, primary and secondary ed teachers, other WordPress bloggers, and professionals in various fields of expertise.  My goal was to offer an approachable discussion platform to discuss all things “Shakespearean” and to encourage interest in the Shakespeare Authorship Question, and I believe I achieve this goal in increments every time I blog.  I’ve never referred to myself as a professional educator but rather as a student who enjoys passing on the knowledge I glean along my academic journey on and off campus.

Unfortunately, I was not able to add any new insight to the already exhaustive biographical research of authors Stopes and Akrigg.  To do so, I would first need access to historical documents and correspondence located in the archives of England, then time to sort through this information and see if I could connect any dots that previous biographers failed to recognize.  Needless to say, that’s a feat that would require much more time than one semester allows, in addition to funding for an overseas literary expedition.

What I have learned was that the foundation for designating Southampton as Shakespeare’s Patron is based primarily on conjectureThere was never any evidence discovered that proves a relationship existed between William Shakspere of Stratford-Upon-Avon and Henry Wriothesley the Third Earl of Southampton In fact, based upon my knowledge of class prejudices of Elizabethan England, interclass intimacy between a nobleman and a businessman was highly unlikely.  The only factual evidence is that the writer of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece dedicated these works to Southampton.  Mere speculation is all that connects Shakespeare’s Sonnets to this earl.

To me, there is reasonable doubt that “Shakespeare” was the man from Stratford and is most likely the pseudonym of someone else, most likely a member of the noble class.

I am grateful to the overwhelming literary information provided by my friends and mentors: Shelly Maycock, Professor of English at VA Tech; Sallie DelVecchio, Professor of English at Middlesex County College; Dr. Roger Stritmatter of Coppin State University; author Hank Whittemore; and other intellectual acquaintances of mine who continue to teach me, on a daily basis, about the many avenues and fine nuances yet to be explored in Shakespearean studies.

Keeping up with the new theories and scholarly discoveries is overwhelming at times, but always intellectually stimulating.  I’ve already learned so much about the key figures in Shakespeare’s world and will continue my research both on and off campus for years to come.

Finally, I would like to thank Professor Kathleen Webber for agreeing to mentor me in this academic endeavor.  Prior to taking her class, “Writing for Interactive Multimedia” at The College of New Jersey last semester, I never considered blogging.  Her class introduced me to the world of social media and taught me how to utilize its diverse outlets in both a professional and educational manner.  Shakes-Query was initiated as an assignment in Professor Webber’s class but continues to be a labor of love and an important part of my educational journey.

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