Shakespeare and Southhampton: Blest Be the Tie That Un-Binds

How to Cite

Cutting, B. (2023). Shakespeare and Southhampton: Blest Be the Tie That Un-Binds. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 37(2), 185-192.


The epic poem Venus and Adonis was the first work of Shakespeare’s to be printed, yet there was no author’s name on the title page. The name William Shakespeare only appeared at the end of a dedication of the poem to Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton. A year later, another epic poem was published, the 1600-line Rape of Lucrece. Almost as popular as Venus and Adonis (which was printed nine times in less than a decade), Lucrece went through six printings in a slightly longer time frame. Again here, the author’s name was not on the title page, only appearing in yet another dedication to Southampton. Of interest, never again did “Shakespeare” (whoever he or she was) dedicate anything else to anyone else. Nevertheless, on the strength of these two remarkable dedications, Shakespearean orthodoxy has put forth that Southampton must have been Shakespeare’s “patron” and possibly even the “fair youth” mentioned in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Yet despite centuries of searching for such a connection, no evidence at all has emerged connecting Will Shakspere of Stratford with Southampton. The fact is, when Venus and Adonis was published in 1593, Southampton was himself only 19 years old, living on a very small income that had to be doled out to him by his guardian, William Cecil (Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth’s Master of the Royal Wards). At this point in time, Southampton was clearly in no position to be a patron to anyone. Indeed, how would the Stratford man have even gotten to know him? It would be two more years before Southampton would reach his majority and be able to “sue for livery” – the legal process that required payment to the crown for an heir to obtain any inheritance from his deceased father’s estates. This paper explores the historical circumstances of these major epic poems and what the author’s personal motivation might really have been behind choosing young Southampton as dedicatee.
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