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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Greenblatt Discussion Forum
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0185  Friday, 28 January 2005

From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 20:41:04 -0500
Subject: 16.0026 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0026 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

Stephen Greenblatt in his book, Will in the World, makes the error that
many other scholars do in inferring from the Sonnets that Shakespeare
was a bi-sexual man driven by uncontrollable inner passions. This error
would seem to be the outcome of a conclusion based on the fact that many
of the ardent love poems in the Sonnets are addressed to a male "friend"
(or "friends") and that the poet declares such things that he prefers
the love of his male friend to his female friend. Can any different
conclusion be drawn from what seem to be the facts?

But there is indeed a radically different conclusion to be drawn from
these poems, but this happens only when their deeper layers of meaning
and context are probed. These deeper aspects becomes evident when it is
recognized that the identity of the poet's beloved friend is none other
than The Lord God. When this emerges, it becomes the gateway for
recognizing the identities of others addressed in these poems and a most
benign rationale for the sentiments expressed. This reveals that the
Sonnets comprises an organic whole that presents an allegory with a
grand meaning of importance to the world. That which otherwise appear as
strange manifestations of love take on a new context that is totally at
odds with the bi-sexual Shakespeare riven by unwholesome inner conflicts
that some wish to see.

Sonnets 29 and 30 demonstrate how the context of these poems changes
with a new awareness. In these poems, it is the poet's thinking on his
Friend that transforms his life from a circumstance of being a
discontented, inadequate "outcast" and being cast in perpetual mourning
for friends lost to "death's dateless night" into a condition of sublime
satisfaction in which "all losses are restored and sorrows end." Only
the inspiration of The Lord can do that, not the disturbed love of a
vacuous, self-centered young man that many commentators have seen. So
that readers may come to know that this Friend is the Lord, Shakespeare
himself gives signs of this through allusions and through embedded
transliterations of God's name in these sonnets.

Thus Shakespeare contrives his Sonnet 29 so that its theme parallels
that in the last verse of Psalm 29, in which the Lord "gives His people
strength" and, in doing so, "peace"-the same strength the poet gains in
thinking of Him in the sonnet that leads the poet to find new peace in
his dreadful circumstance.

In addition, there is to be found in the sonnet transliterations of the
Lord's name as the Tetragramaton, the four letter name of God (YHVH or
YHWH) used in the Pentateuch. This transliteration shows up in acrostics
of its divided syllables that read Y-H W-A which can be read in the
first letters of lines 9 to 10 and 5 to 4. Another transliteration
appears on lines 11 and 12 in the configuration shown below:


Here, y-H is read downward and the letters "uae" of Heauen are read from
right to left to form "y-H uae" (read "y-H vae" since in the Elizabethan
period the letter "v" in midword is written as "u.") There is a
repetition of this same configuration on lines 4 and 3 in the sonnet by
reading upward from a same letter "y" and the same word, "heauen." The
repetition tells that these occurrences are not accidental.

A similar set of telltale allusion and devices appear in Sonnet 30.
Thus, Sonnet 30 also parallels the theme of its corresponding psalm. For
just as Psalm 30 tells that the Lord has changed the psalmist's
"mourning into dancing," so does the poet tell in Sonnet 30 that
thinking on his Friend has relieved him of the sadness of mourning for
departed friends, as the poet finds "all losses are restored and sorrows

Similarly, Sonnet 30 also bears transliterations of the Tetragramaton,
confirming that the sonnet addresses God. One of these transliterations
shows up conspicuously in the original quarto printing at the very
beginning of the sonnet in the following configuration:

        [1]  VV H
        [3]  I

In the original printing of this sonnet, the "W" of the sonnet's first
word, "When," is printed double size as a pair of letter "V"s and its
letter "h" is capitalized (VVHen). When these letters are read beginning
with the letter "I" directly below on line 3, it forms the configuration
"I VVH," which can alternatively be read as "J VVH" or "YVVH" since the
Elizabethan "I" is also a "J," which "J," in turn, is a usual rendering
of the Hebrew letter "Y." It is only necessary to read these letters in
the Hebrew manner by supplying the understood vowels-Hebrew is written
with consonants alone, with vowels understood from context-to reveal
that it pronounces the Tetragramaton as JaVVaH/YaVVaH-one of the two
accepted pronunciations of the Tetragramaton (the other being

The only other factor that needs to be explained is that the letter
"vav" in the Tetragramaton-the equivalent of our letter "v"-is also
pronounced as a "w"-the pronunciation used by the Sephardic Jewish
community-giving this the pronunciation JaWaH/YaWaH.

A second striking embedment as "y-wwa" occurs in the sonnet in a similar
configuration and manner in two forms-one read downward from the upper
"y" and the second read upward from the lower "y"-within lines 3 to 5:

   [3]                        y
   [4]                        w wa
   [5]                        y

   [3] I sigh the lacke of many a thing I sought,
   [4]  And  with  old woes new waile my deare times waste:
   [5]  Then can I drowne an eye(vn-vs'd to flow)

Two other renderings of this transliteration occur on lines 10 and 8,
respectively, through the single word "heauily" when a portion of its
letters are read from right to left as "iuaeh"- which can be pronounced
j[a]vaeh or y[a]vaeh-and through the letters "y a va" of the words "manY
A VAnished sight."

If skeptics find these embeded transliterations to be improbable, it is
the poet himself that educated his readers about looking for such
configured devices when he used these same techniques to render his full
name in Sonnet 148. This is shown below extracted from the text with the
configuration preserved, followed afterward by the full text:

  [11]                                    ake
  [12]               selfe               h         eere
  [13]                l                 s          p
  [14]                w                            s

  [11] No maruaile then   though  I   mistake my view,
  [12] The  sunne it selfe sees not,till heauen  cleeres.
  [13]   O cunning    loue,with    teares  thou keepst me blinde,
  [14]   Least eyes   well seeing  thy foule  faults should finde.

(Note the vertical alignment of the letters w-l-l, which ends in the
telltale word "selfe.")

The complexity of these configurations tell without doubt that these
names could not have emerged by accident but must have been the
deliberate design of the poet, William Shakespeare, who wrote the sonnet
and must have arranged its printing to bring this about. His use of
these "signature" devices-many more to be found-was apparently done for
the purpose of communicating to the public that he uses such devices
throughout the sonnets to serve communication functions in shedding
light on the meaning of his poems, a sample of which we now have seen.

It is evident that the sonnets are not the series of individually
isolated, impulsive creations they have been thought to be. These poems
form a collection that discloses a highly structured arrangement and
allegory, with each poem revealing amazing virtuosity in its poetic
design as it simultaneously embeds a variety of hidden devices. Together
with the other poems, these communicate the poet's larger message,
unsuspected for more than 400 years. It is these aspects and more that
have been explored in THE SHAKESPEARE CODES, which poses a first theory
of the allegory behind the Sonnets and its larger message to the world.

It is imperative that the true greatness of the Sonnets be assessed
rather than writing this work off as nothing more than an artful expose
of a poet's troubled psyche, with farfetched sophomoric sexual allusions
dredged up as evidence. Even the most sacred of writings cannot
withstand a mindset to read in such spurious things. The question is
whether scholars will diminish their own professional calling by
diminishing the poet as some are proposing to do? Will inept scholars
skirt the inner meaning of the Sonnets and trade the true poet that has
created a magnificent work at the highest level of artistry and
profundity for a false shadow of one-this a pathetic, self-denigrating
man that is a slave to his passions, hopelessly in thrall to the love of
a vacuous, self-centered young man? Can it be believed that this is
Shakespeare? To pass on that erroneous image of a diminished poet to
future generations would be a tragic for literature and as the fate for
the poet of the ages.

David Basch

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