SHAKESPEARE’S GRAVE: 17 Feet Deep — “Good frend for Iesus sake . . . “

Who or What?      

                                                                          Fig. A

” . . . Let’s talk of Graues, of Wormes, and Epitaphs . . . ”                          

(Richard II, 3.2.1505)     


   Inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, is the Shakespeare Monument,  arguably the most famous funerary monument in the Western world.  Considered the first comparatively accurate engraving of this monument was made by the engraver and antiquary, George Vertue, in 1723 (see Fig. B).  Above the sculpture of Shakespeare are two metaphorical figures.  As can be seen, one figure represents Labour, and holds a spade.  The other figure represents Rest, and holds a torch and a skull.

   No documentary evidence exists as to an exact date of construction.  Various points of view place the date somewhere between 1616 and 1623; but the consensus is that is was probably made and placed in the chancel of the church sometime before 1623.  Although it has been modified since then, it remains relatively the same as it was since it’s first appearance.

                                                                           Fig. B

   When I first saw a photograph of the engraving on what is considered to be the actual  tombstone of Shakespeare, my wife and I were staying at a bed-and-breakfast on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.  We were excited to be assigned to the Anne Hathaway Cottage.  The cottage, during the day (with the exception of our room–the only one in the cottage) was a museum.  The structure, inside and out, was a replica of what is assumed to have been the farmhouse (located just to the west of Stratford-upon-Avon in a town called Shottery, Warwickshire, England) where Anne was raised.

   At six in the evening, the museum was closed until the following day, leaving us the entire cottage, museum and all, to ourselves.  On a wall I noticed a photograph of an inscription a nearby plaque said was the exact verse written on Shakespeare’s tombstone.  As can be seen in Fig. A, the four lines are little more than doggerel, hardly something one would find in any writing attributed to Shakespeare.  Well, perhaps this is possible if Shakespeare’s intent was to show a tombstone found in Tudor England in the 16th or 17th centuries.  But not for his own tombstone.  I think anyone who has had an introduction to Shakespeare in high school would immediately question whether or not any highly literate Elizabethan, let alone Shakespeare, would wish her/his tombstone engraved with such a clumsy poem.  And when I read it, I was determined to find out whether the epitaph was historically accurate, or, perhaps, a bit of humour for the sake of tourists.  But, when we got home after our vacation, every source I checked said the inscription was actual.  At the time (1988), I just shrugged it off and thought perhaps the inscription was a bit of irony deliberately written by Shakespeare so as to bear witness to what his contemporaries considered him to be:  the best for comedy.  Twenty years later, I returned to the gravestone epitaph with an entirely different point of view.

  First of all, there are several features about the epitaph that frankly drove me crazy (and still do).  To begin with, the gravestone was originally not in Holy Trinity Church.  However, we cannot say that for sure, except that it strongly appears this is so.  Why would they dig a grave in the church, then remove the contents outside where it was originally located.  Again, it would be great if we had documents, church documents, city hall type documents, a letter or letters testifying as to why the grave was dug in the first place, and form whom was it dug?  Did the grave already exist at the time Shakespeare’s bones were interred therein, or were the bones of another or others removed and placed elsewhere, or were they dumped into the local nearby charnel house so as to make room for new remains, all, I suspect, in the interest of space conservation?  Being buried in sacred ground was an issue at the time, and having one’s tomb next to the, or a, church was important, especially for those with the means to purchase a plot of certain chosen dimensions.  Shakespeare was relatively well-to-do.  Why would he:  have a narrow flat-to-the-ground, horizontal tombstone, roughly a single meter (3 feet) in length?  Why not something commensurate to his station, something reflecting his status as a poet and playwright, or that of a local successful landowner and businessman?  And what about the fact there are no birth and death dates on the stone; i.e., “1564 – 1616”.  And while you’re at it, at least have his name on the stone.  Since there has not been found any documentary evidence to whom the gravestone belongs to, how can we be sure it belongs to Shakespeare?

   At this point in time, we have written testimony claiming the gravestone is ‘probably’ that of Shakespeare, but nothing for certain.  Just anecdotal documentation.  One source claims Shakespeare (the Stratford ‘Shakespere’) was terrified of having his grave desecrated and his mortal remains cast elsewhere, as was the case for Opelia’s grave in Hamlet.  Hamlet has a little fun musing about Yorick’s remains, a man he knew, a man who played with him when he was a boy, who carried him around in piggy-back fashion, whose lips he kissed innumerable times.  The Stratford legend has it that it was Shakespeare’s wish to be buried so that grave-robbers or those wanting his grave for another would be almost certainly deterred, so terrified was he of winding up on some bone heap in the local charnel house.  Hence the accompanying fact that another source states the inscription is in the form of a curse, warning anyone who disturbs (“digg”s) his bones, or moves them, will be cursed.  Apparently to frighten off the superstitious.  How can anyone really believe this–or did believe it–when it was first considered to be Shakespeare’s bones?  Perhaps because it’s just the sort of thing a dramatist would do.  In modern times, it’s like some of the engravings on Nineteenth century tombstones in Tombstone, Arizona.  One says: “Here lies the body of Lester Moore.  Took four slugs from a .44.  No less, no more.”  Or another on the tombstone of a hypocondriac, which reads in part:  “I told you I was sick!”  Not too far from the mood in the gravedigger scene in Hamlet:  having a little joke at the expense of Death.  Believable?  Maybe.  Plausible?  No.

   The gravestone epitaph is a comparatively small plaintext.  However, I was immediately attracted to it for obvious reasons.  It was, after all, considered to be Shakespeare’s request to have it engraved on what he must have thought would be what people for years to come would read.  But there were so many questions that merely the fact of a genuine mystery, possible skullduggery, and a great story to discover and tell, before my eyes, in plain sight; I couldn’t resist.  I realize codes in Shakespeare, as well as in other contemporary documents, is a relatively new approach to the Authorship Question, that it is almost immediately rejected as a valid view out of the starting gates.  And offering a reasonable argument about a piece of doggerel that hardly seems Shakespearian, combined with code-clusters and letter-strings, is shaky.

   My first approach was to accept the gravestone inscription at face value.  That is, since “u”s and “v”s were inter-changeable in Elizabethan orthography, plus the difficulty of engraving into stone an actual “u” when two whacks with a chisel and hammer could produce a “v” immediately, made sense.  Keeping in mind, though, we are dealing with codes, and regular logic doesn’t always work.  In fact, nothing is blatantly obvious when working with codes or ciphers, such that one learns quickly to expect difficulty.

   Figure A is the plaintext everyone can see in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Some sources believe, and I think correctly so, that it is very old, but is likely not the original.  There is evidence to show the grave was originally on the outside of the church, but was moved inside when part of the present graveyard was dug up at a time when repairs were necessary.

   Figure C is the same plaintext as that below, with one exception.  The three “Y”s in the body of the verse represent the “th” sound.  The “th” sound, printed “th” in the greater part of written English at the time, but sometimes written as a “Y” (“Ye olde shoppe”, for example, was pronounced “The olde shoppe”).  But why not write out the “y” with the super-scripts alongside [ “ye” (the), the two “yt”s (that) ]?  The issue is not the lack of space.  As will be seen later, I arrayed the plaintext in several permutations to account for this:

                                                                            Fig. C

“U’s and “V”s, “I”s and “J”s

   We don’t know all the rules for coded letter-string events yet.  I believe, however, that one rule is that one letter does not represent another (as is the case in a cipher).  Especially in the case of a surname, pronunciation of the letter as the letter was intended to be pronounced was a consistent rule, codes notwithstanding.  The rules of English grammar were not codified until long after Shakespeare wrote.  In many cases, words were spelled the way the were according to the choice of an individual publisher, unless instructed otherwise, as I believe they were in the case of Edward de Vere.  Therefore, just because a “v” is represented in any given plaintext as a “u”,does not mean at all it was pronounced as one.  Conversely, if a vertical letter-string spells out “every” as “euery”, as is quite common in Tudor and Elizabethan literature, it still does not mean that “euery” is pronounced “you air y”.  For a vertical letter-string to spell “Vere”, then, it cannot read, top to bottom or bottom to top, “Uere” if the “U” is the first letter of, for example, the word “upon”.  It is obvious the “u” in “upon” is intended to be a “u” and pronounced like one as well, even if the “u” in “upon” is represented by a “v”, thus producing (visually) “vpon”.  Therefore, in this case, “Uere” would be pronounced “You air”.  Likewise, if a horizontal word in the plaintext, such as “euery” provides a vertical letter-string of “Uere”, and the “U” is clearly intended to be pronounced as the letter it really is (in this case, a “v”), then “Uere” is prounced as “Vere”.  With respect to identifying valid codes, then, finding “DEUERE” (as in the case in Sonnet 76), when the “U” is in the horizontal plaintext word, “loue”, it is apparent the “u” in “loue” is intended to be both:  represented by a “v” (if chosen to be represented this way), and pronounced as a “v” as well.  In this case, the ‘visual’ appearance of “loue” is in fact both read and pronounced:  “Vere”.

   An acceptable extension for a modern-day reader, then, is that all “v”s representing “u”s (as in the case of “upon” being spelled “vpon”) can be replaced (for the purposes of an easier visual presentation) with a “u”, and “u”s representing “v”s (as in the case of “enuious”) can be replaced with a “v” (to produce “envious”) for the same reason.

   Thus, in the gravestone epitaph, “dvst” can be written as “dust” (for the sake of a modern reader).  Also, since “i” and “j’ were inter-changeable in Shakespeare’s time, the “Iesvs” in the gravestone plaintext can be presented as “Jesus” (as it is intended to be pronouned).  What is apparent, therefore, is that there was no intent or expectation on the part of whoever or whomever wrote the epitaph for “Iesvs” to be pronounced “Eye ees vus” simply because it is written that way.  Not then, not now.  But, as stated above, I began my ELS search for codes in the epitaph by taking the plaintext at face value–at first.

“My name be where my body is . . .”

   Even though there is no name on the gravestone, no church register assigning a specific body to a certain plot at a certain location, and only a rumour the grave is that of William Shakespere of Stratford-upon-Avon (let alone that of William Shakespeare, noted poet and dramatist), my eyes immediately went to the word “stones”.  Metaphors are substitutes, allusions to other things, ideas, attributes.  At a literal level, a stone is a discrete unit of mineral matter.  Recorded from the 14th century, a stone is also a unit of measurement; i.e., a stone (British) is a unit of weight used especially to refer to human body weight, and weighs approximately 14 pounds.  At a metaphorical level, one interpretation that fits the context of the alleged Shakespeare gravestone is what we might expect of Shakespearian wit in a clever, if not brilliant, strategy that provides a set of clues for those in the know as to the intended identification of the graves content.

   My hunch, of course, was and is that the gravestone contents just may be  a combination of the literal and the metaphorical, and was the creation of Edward de Vere, and directly refers us to Sonnet 72 and the famous line 11:  “My name be where my body is . . . ”  I surmised, then, that the metaphorical content, at least as far as a clue as to the identity of the grave’s contents (person or objects), is a reference to a “stone”, and refers to the number of lines in a sonnet.  I therefore suspected if the gravestone had a ciphertext, perhaps I should begin with Array 14 of the epitaph.  After all, Array 14 of Sonnet 76 is literally a confession on the part of the writer of the sonnet (“My name’s DEVERE), and that the gravestone just might be a clue as to an embedded message, or ‘instruction’ within its plaintext.

                                                                             Fig. D

   The syntax of the letter-string cluster reads:  “E.C.O. encloased heare.”  As well as:  “E.C.O.” encloased, hyd (‘concealed’, ‘hid’, ‘hidden’) heare.”  What makes this so appealing for me is that “E.C.O.” is the legal signature de Vere often used on legal documents, and stands for:  “Edwardus Comes Oxoniensis” (Edward, our friend from Oxford).  More striking is the correlation (mirroring, ‘echo’ing–that is, ‘’) between the plaintext (what you see) and the ciphertext (what is “hyd”).  Further note that what is also ‘buried’, or ‘hyd’ within the plaintext (as a body is ‘hyd’ within a grave, and therefore not visible to the naked eye) are these striking “stones” (i.e., number 14’s):

                                                                        Fig. E
   Does Array 14 contain an ‘instruction’?:
                                                                             Fig. F 
And in Array 15 as well?:
                                                                             Fig. G

   If the letter-strings are separate messages (indentiers, instructions), then the irony within the plaintext is unmistakable.  Plaintext and ciphertext interplay and reflect what is plainly seen, and what is brought to light, so that a more true meaning is revealed, and can be seen as well.  The entire metaphor of a gravestone (grave stone) cannot be missed.  The clear irony is that what appears to the eye of the reader of the epitaph as a curse:  is one, and is not one, at the same time.  The gravestone identifies the contents as (possibly) the remains of Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, and the presence of verse of some kind.  Since stone can metaphorically represent 14 (the number of lines in a sonnet), perhaps this instruction states that within the grave rest the or some of the sonnet originals; perhaps more than sonnets.  Surprisingly enough, Arrays 18a and 18b offer an additional dimension of mystery:

                                                                          Fig. 18a

                                                                         Fig. 18b

   Before commenting on Figs. 18a, 18b, more mystery surrounds both the gravestone and its attributed epitaph.

   Much of what is known about Shakespeare’s grave is essentially that of information deduced from second-hand accounts of its attribution to him.  In the latter part of the 19th century, a certain Rev. W.D. Macray discovered a letter in the Bodleian Library (Oxford, England) pertaining to the grave and its epitaph.  Adding to the mystery of the gravestone is that, although the un-attributed grave assumed to be that of Shakespeare is itself undated, Rev. Macray states in a letter concerning his discovery to J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps (a Shakesperian scholar, antiquarian, and collector of English nursery rhymes and fairy tales) that the letter, “ . . . written about the beginning of 1694, appears from a subsequent letter which contains the Staffordshire words, and which is dated at Lichfield, January the 2nd, 1694-5.”  The 1694 letter was written by William Hall, whom Halliwell-Phillipps says was a “well-informed and zealous antiquary,” to its addressee, Edward Thwaites, a well-known Anglo-Saxon scholar.

   Halliwell-Phillipps (in his 1884 book entitled Shakespeare;s Grave) further states that (up to his writing about the discovered letter sent to him by the Rev. Macray) early “ . . . traditional notices of Shakespeare are of such excessive rarity that incessant research amongst the multitudinous records of England have heretofore disclosed only four manuscripts of the kind belonging to the seventeenth century.  The present discovery adds a fifth, but unfortunately it follows the brevity (emphasis mine) of its predecessors.”

   Halliwell-Phillipps closes the introduction to his book with the following:

                                                                           Fig. 19

   Immediately following the above, I came to the copy of the letter from William Hall to Edward Thwaites.  He begins by saying that while he was in Stratford-upon-Avon, he went to visit the ashes of Shakespeare “which lye interr’d in that church (Holy Trinity Church).  The verses which, in his life-time, he ordered to be cut upon his tomb-stone, for his monument have other, are these which follow:

   Hall’s copy of the gravestone’s epitaph in Holy Trinity Church appears to be the source of the July, 1777 account mentioned above, as he goes on to say:

The gravestone and epitaph we see today in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church is by and large presumed to be a copy of whatever was the original stone.  The stone copied by William Hall is visually different, as can immediately be seen.

   First of all, the verse begins with “Reader”, clearly not present on today’s stone.  Looking at Hall’s copy, I can accept he may have altered some of the word spellings (the “y”s with their respective superscripts, the spellings of: “Iesvs”; “forbeare”; “digg”; “encloased”; “heare”’ “bleste”, and so on, as well as the presence of “v” for “u” in three cases).  Purely in the interests of being more understandable and pronounceable to his 17th century readers, this would make sense.

   But did Hall in fact alter anything?  He was, afterall, writing to Halliwell-Phillipps, a scholar and antiquarian like himself.  Why would he not copy the epitaph exactly as he saw it in Holy Trinity Church, then?  Halli-well Phillipps refers to Hall as a “well-informed and zealous anitiquary.”  Furthermore, when Halliwell-Phillipps recounts and presents a copy of Hall’s letter, he doesn’t comment on Hall’s accuracy, or inaccuracies, if this is the case.  Perhaps Halliwell-Phillipps had never been to Stratford-upon-Avon, and therefore would not have noticed, for instance, that “Good frend” was replaced with”Reader”, or any of the other differences in the two epitaphs.  Perhaps Halliwell-Phillipps (at least at the time of the writing and publication of his book) didn’t show anyone Hall’s letter with the intent of seeing whether or not what Hall was claiming was accurate, and accurate to what extent.  We also have no documentary evidence to show that the reading public noticed the difference in the wording of the two epitaphs, and wrote about it.  We also know that Halliwell-Phillipps, if he was informed of the inaccuracies, said nothing about it in writing.  That we know of.  And, of course, perhaps these discrepancies were noticed, but were hidden away in the Bodleian Library much the way we squirrel away government documents we wish to keep from the public.  However, this should not have been an issue, unless someone ‘in the know’ wanted to keep what is encrypted in the gravestone quiet for the time being, and simply hoped no one would notice, or, if  it was noticed, would not bother to bring attention to it as it may have not been an issue for them.  Be that as it may, “Reader” in place of “Good frend” is a stunning and noticeable difference, and rather testifies as to what was probably the case:  that the gravestone we now see in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church is perhaps not the original (as suspected), and that the one Hall saw is (or is at least similar).

   Moreover, the two epitaphs themselves are identical in words used (i.e., after “Reader”, spelling notwithstanding) as well as in syntax, with the striking difference in Hall’s copy:  the word “Reader” replaces the “Good frend” in today’s gravestone.  I must admit I do have a difficult time accepting Hall’s liberties with the epitaph’s spelling and replacing the first two words with “Reader” (again, if this is what he did).  However, it just may be (and I am inclined to take this view) that his copy is a rendering of the original gravestone epitaph, and that perhaps the one handed down to us is an engraving made to seem like one written after 1616.  After all, the first historical documentation and  reference (that we know of at present) is this 1694 epitaph rendition.  This, in itself, is intensely mysterious:  that an attribution of a gravestone, without attribution as to the name and birth-death dates of a man allegedly as well-known and referred to in poetry and in play documents as Shakespeare was, could actually die and be placed in a tomb such as the one we now have.  Not unless there was a compelling reason to do so.

   More startling and mysterious to me is Hall’s unquestioning acceptance of all this ‘absence’ of what should have been on the epitaph.  I only imagine, but have no proof, that gravestones in Hall’s time (and in times preceding his) had engravings stating who was buried beneath a gravestone, as well providing the dates of the birth and death of the interred.  And finally, in an age when it was commonplace to dig up remains to make room for another occupant, how a plot connected to a church graveyard would contain no attribution is all the more intiguing.  Why not just put the remains of an unknown in the local charnel house?

   We can surmise Hall did more than just visit Shakespeare’s grave, copy the epitaph, and leave.  He mentions the kind of information one would expect of antiquarian who certainly has, as a professional goal, not only to collect as much as possible about his subject matter, but would persist in knowing everything available to him.  Where or from whom did he get what he recounts in his letter to Halliwell-Phillipps?  He appears to have taken for granted the gravestone as is, and comments on the depth of the grave (which was obviously an intended point he wished to make), but does not write or question this:  “ . . . they laid him full seventeen foot deep . . . ”.  I personally find it incredible he didn’t say to himself:  “Something is rotten in the State of Denmarke.” (Hamlet, I.iv.678).  Graves any deeper than six or so feet might raise a questioning eyebrdow or two, but a depth of seventeen feet is a detail I cannot imagine Hall not noticing or questioning this oddity of burial.  I surmise he did notice this, but what he had to say about it to anyone is an unknown.  We have no record of what Hall and Halliwell-Phillipps talked about at a later date about any of the above concerns.  Whether or not they did, I believe many ‘in the know’ visited Shakespeare’s grave because they either knew or discovered the truth with known, albeit somewhat veiled, methods.  This notwithstanding, I believe Hall was one of those in the know.

“Who’s there”  (Hamlet, I.i.5)

                                                                           Fig. 20

Or this, if you wish:

                                                                           Fig. 21

   Another feature present in both the Trinity Church gravestone and that of William Hall — in fact in every printed version of the epitaph — there is only one “v” that is ‘intended’ to be a “v” in the four-line quatrain.  As one who looks for oddities in a plaintext that may suggest the present of a code or cipher, this fact alone is noteworthy.  It is understandable that, at the time, it was easier to chisel a “v” in stone than a “u”.  However, the three “u”s in the gravestone epitaph (represented by “v”s) do somewhat disguise what is nevertheless a single plaintext “v”.  Although coincidental (perhaps), the written-out array shape, even when done by hand, is quite symmetrical.  The array is 7 x 16, with the letter-string “VERE” placed in the array’s exact center in column 3.  The word “BONES” at the base has the middle-most letter (“N”) directly beneath the “V” in “VERE”, with two letters on either side of the “N”.  Shaped like a cross.  Very artistic, suitable for framing.

   Thus far, both the Trinity Church gravestone and Hall’s 1694 rendition have relevant ciphertext vertical letter-strings relevant to Edward de Vere:  “E.C.O.” (“echo” poems in de Vere’s published poetry, E.C.O., de Vere’s legal attribution:  Edwardus Comes Oxoniensis) in both,; “VERE” in Hall’s.  In no array in any rendition of the chancel gravestone or other rendition of the epitaph did I find: Will, William, Shakespeare, Avon, Nashe, Greene, Francis, Bacon, Roger, Manners, Kit, Marlow, Marlowe, Marley, and so on.  However, I did find another proper name in both epitaphs which, when seen side by side, reflect and suggest intelligent design behind the respective arrays.  Figure 18 (chancel gravestone) above has the letter-string “BETH”.  William Hall’s copy of the epitaph has “BESS”:

                                                                           Fig. 22

And when placed side-by-side:

                                                                            Fig. 23

   “Beth” and “Bess” were diminutive forms for Queen Elizabeth.  In fact, she was often referred to by the public as “Good Queen Bess” (“Good frend Bess”).  What can be said with 100% certainty is that the vertical letter-strings are present in both epitaphs.  It is not as if there is any ‘interpretation’ being offered in the same manner one might interpret a passage in a sonnet or play, or address what is seen as if it is a metaphor to explain.  There is no ambiguity, no strange spelling variations, and both can be seen.  That they cannot be seen can be no argument to any skeptic.  The question is how they got there.

   What can also be said is that both vertical letter-strings are revealed (metaphorically hidden, then resurrected; buried, then exhumed) in plaintexts different from one another; yet the wordings as presented visually are virtually identical:  “Beth” and “Bess” both share the “e” in “encloased/enclosed”, and are each flanked by “dvst/dust”.  Both letter-strings were uncovered (brought to light, if you will) using identical methodology:   a skip-of-one-transposition code equidistant letter sequence (ELS).  Furthermore, and what is more significant with respect to the answer to the question of whether or not intelligent design is behind this possible ‘coincidence’ is that both share identical design and number placements within their respective locations:  “BETH” and “BESS” both begin in Column 7, Row 2.  Both epitaphs refer to someone named Elizabeth, and both declare her dust is enclosed within a grave beneath the gravestone.

   What is also striking from a design standpoint is that “VERE” in William Hall’s copy as seen in Array 7 (Fig. 20) is located in Array 7 which has 16 columns, and his rendition of the epitaph places “BESS” in Array 16 which has 7 columns:

                                                                          Fig. 24

   The point I wish to underscore is that it seems unlikely the presence of “Vere” and “Bess” in his copy of the chancel gravestone was a random occurrence due to the changes in the epitaph he may have made.  I believe he probably knew de Vere was the author of much of the Shakespeare canon, went to Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon to verify what he expected was there, got confirmation that his suspicions were correct, and rewrote and sent to Halliwell-Phillips his own ‘copy’ of the Shakespeare epitaph, and deliberately designed his own encryption to reflect his point of view, as well as what may be the case:  that in the grave might be both Elizabeth and de Vere, as well as many of the original writings in de Vere’s own hand.  To verify this, both the graves of Shakespeare and that of Queen Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey would have to be examined, Thus far, requests to open the grave allegedly under the chancel gravestone, or an area adjacent to and on the outside of Trinity Church where there may be a grave 17 feet below the surface, have been denied.  And I doubt Queen Elizabeth’s monument tomb in Westminster Abbey will be examined in like manner anytime soon.

My ‘degree of belief’ is that William Hall’s rendition of the chancel gravestone epitaph with the encryptions within show a remarkable consistency in design with content pertaining to Edward de Vere.  To me, all of this goes beyond chance, and is more consistent with intelligent design.

To return to the gravestone and epitaph presently within the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Array 14, with its three letter-strings (two vertical and one diagonal) represents, for me, a clear and concise ciphertext:

                                                                           Fig. 25 

Or this:

                                                                           Fig. 26


O.E. bedd “bed, couch, resting place, garden plot”.  M.Du. bedde, O.N. beðr, O.H.G. betti, Ger. bett, Goth. badi), from PIE base *bhedh- “to dig, pierce“.  Hittite beda- “to pierce, prick.”  The connection to Shakespeare is a reasonable association.  And, of course, of Edward de Vere being Shakespeare.  Fig. 25:  “E.C.O.’s bed (grave) hyd heare.”  Fig. 26:  E.C.O. be ye (the) man hyd heare.”  Unmistakeable syntax.  Figs. 25 and 26 summed up:

   For me, the single most enigmatic word combination in the original gravestone epitaph are the words thes stones.  The gravestone itself is a single piece of stone.  But thes stones obviously refers to more than one stone.  “Stones” and “bones” in lines three and four rhyme, suggesting the plural form was deliberate, and not the result of poor grammar.

Aside from being a rock structure, a “stone” is a British English term for a unit of weight, and is especially used in referring to describe body weight.  The play on words here is on “body” and the actual weight of a “stone”, which is 14 pounds, or 6.350 kilograms is, to my mind, a number play.  Since the assumption of a gravestone found in a graveyard is a marker for a buried body beneath it, the word play suggests a person.  However, the word in the gravestone plaintext is plural, not singular.  This implies more than one “body” in the grave, or refers to what is buried metaphorically.

Note that a ‘stone’ is 14 pounds.  The kilogram equivalent is 6.350.  The sum of 6350 is 14.  Considering that a sonnet is a poem consisting of rhymed couplets–and the original gravestone is in the form of a quatrain made up of two sets of rhymed couplets–and as a poetic unit of a sonnet is 14 lines, the suggestion in my mind is that the “body” beneath the gravestone is really poetry; i.e., sonnets and plays.

The original gravestone is claimed to be that of William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon (where the stone was originally found, and later placed in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, and can be seen there today).  However, there is no attribution on the gravestone, which is remarkable in itself.  Gravestones identify the person  buried beneath them.  To me, the word play on “stones” and the number play on both the number of pounds/kilograms and the number of lines in a sonnet–point to Shakespeare; but, to me, this means Edward de Vere, the 17th Earle of Oxford.  Furthermore, the grave reaches a depth of 17 feet, a distance considered extreme for a burial site in the 17th century as it would be considered today.

I have found no written recognition to date on the form of the twenty-eight words of the Stratford gravestone.  However, the four lines are contradictory:  on the one hand, the gravestone carving is visually unappealing, and reflects clumsy spelling (even for Elizabethan and Jacobian England), yet the phonics reveal poetic form.  Although Shakespeare’s sonnets are written in iambic pentameter (five phonic units per line), the gravestone text is written in iambic tetrameter (four phonic units per line).  Additionally, the gravestone’s plaintext is compromised of 28 words, and half of 28 is 14, the number of lines in a sonnet.  Furthermore, the fact that an unattributed plaintext on a gravestone is written in poetic form is unusual.  Perhaps this was noticed at the time of the discovery of the gravestone, which led to the assumption or deduction that only a poet would have a poetic epitaph.  In short, since William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon is the putative attribution omitted from the gravestone, historical comment assumes it must be his gravestone by  default.

And finally is this observation:  Take the words thes stones in line 3 and my bones in line 4.  The syntax is not perfect, but in terms of a suggested message or clue, it appears to be saying:  “Thes stones [are] my bones.” Four words in a plaintext written in iambic tetrameter.  The letter-count of “thes stones” is ten; that of “my bones” is seven.  The letter sum of “thes stones” and “my bones” is 17.

Much of what I have discussed here points to Prince Tudor theory.  This theory (also referred to as the Tudor Rose theory) maintains that Edward de Vere and Elizabeth I were lovers, and had a child together.  This love-child was subsequently raised as Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton.  Prince Tudor II maintains that Edward de Vere was the natural born son of Elizabeth.  If these two theories are correct, as some believe they are, then Edward de Vere was both the father to and half-brother of his own son.  I will follow up on this in a later section.




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