Sonnet 76: Black Swan
Fig. 1: Nashe, Dante, Ovid
In 16th century England, no one had ever seen a black swan. There were no historical records of any observation of a black swan anywhere in print in the known world. This changed in 1697 when the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh discovered black swans in Western Australia. Examples of such non-scientific reasoning include statements such as: “All crows are black.” or “All swans are white.” Even with the advent of scientific reasoning, some of the world’s greatest scientists dogmatically claimed: the Earth was flat; heavier than air flight was impossible, heavier bodies fall faster than light ones; or that, due to the ratio of wingspan to body weight, bumble bees are not supposed to be able to fly. But, of course, the scientific method has been able to falsify them all.
White Crows and Black swans are now metaphors. They serve to bear witness to the fragility of bodies of thought. This means that if a hypothesis or theory is falsifiable, the search for this falsifiability is a valid scientific pursuit. And such is the case for the search of codes in the Shakespeare canon.
For several centuries it has been claimed by many that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the sonnets, poems, and plays attributed to him. To their way of thinking, this is fact, and is therefore not falsifiable. However, one merely has to find a single instance where this is not true: if one finds a single poem or play (or a part or parts of either, that is attributed to the Stratford man), but turns out to have been written by another (or others), this would forever falsify the statement that: “Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare”.
Sonnet 76 is a White Crow. It demonstrates that the king is wearing no clothes. It is a template leading to the search for the true identity of the person or persons we refer to as “Shakespeare”.
The Black Swan
A distinction can be made between a ‘white crow’ and a ‘black swan’, as metaphors. Although both can refer to the scientific construct of falsifiability, a White Crow” is largely in the realm of thought, whereas a Black Swan refers to the emotional reaction of the observer. This reaction involves the “Aha!” response, the gasp of surprise, amazement, and often stunning effect when seen and experienced. Furthermore, it has a major effect (s) when witnessed. However, White Crows and Black Swans are in the main experienced in the same way.
With this in mind, I read over the plaintext of Sonnet 76, first to see if any word or words struck me in a singular way. I discovered that lines 7 and 8 of Quatrain 2 by far lept off the page: (7) That every word doth almost tel my name, (8) Shewing their birth, and where they did proceed . . . Line 7 is well-known: “That every word doth almost tel my name, . . . ”; but rather than just a word or words, the single letter “S” beginning line 8, combined with my reading and pronunciation of “shewing” caught my attention. Removing “S” and the homophonic quality of the remaining “ewing” reminded me of “owing”, as in to owe, to be beholden. A loose association, granted. But what I associated to was the capital “S” immediately following the comma after “name”, which caused me to pause a bit before continuing to read. What I then saw was “name” as plural: “names”. And I thought, I wonder if an interpretation could go something like this:
“My names owe their birth to: ” I thought maybe “names” might refer to the “pen names” de Vere was known to have used. Or to those who inspired his writing, as writers and/or to their written material. Much in the way we now use footnotes, references, and a bibliographies.
This all happened in an instant. In short, it was just a “hunch”. But I checked out a few keywords, including any classical references I might find.