WILLIAM BASSE: circa 1583 – 1653


                                                                          Fig. 1

Try this one:    ” . . . I know not seems”

Sirds %22H%22 in Gallery  JPEG

                                                                            Fig. 2

Hidden in Plain Sight

   In many ways, Array 32 (below) of the Basse Eulogy to William Shakespeare is a remarkable testiment clearly bearing witness to Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earle of Oxenforde as, not only the major contributor to what we call the ‘Shakespeare’ canon, but identifies him behaviorally (if you will) through the use of code.  To clarify what I mean by this, note the following structural features:  1) The encrypted vertical top-to-bottom letter-string “CODE” is in Column 17.  This is an unmistakable reference (a parallax view, at least) to Oxford’s noble title as the seventeenth Earl of the House of Vere; 2) the Roman numerals MDL” represent the alleged date of de Vere’s birth:  1550; 3) since we are in the world of codes and encrypted messages with no grammatically defined rules of syntax, part of what is shown in the cluster can be read as “Carved Marble Code”; 4) an obvious feature in the ciphertext is the announcement (as Ben Jonson would put it, “Read if you can”) that, in addition to Basse’s Eulogy written in pen, is that the marble of the Shakespeare tomb in Stratford-upon-Avon is encrypted.  This is not merely a statement without support, but the presence of the word “code” states just that when it says “this carved code” (or “this carved marble code”); 5) further note the “d” in “code” is fused with the “d” in “carved”, yielding “carved code”; 6) in addition is the preposition “under”, providing the following two locations:  first, the letter-strings state, not only that the Eulogy (written in ‘pen’) is a coded message, but that the Shakespeare monument inscription is coded as well.  David Roper, in his book, Proving Shakespeare (2011), demonstrates this quite well.  Furthermore, the allusion to the possible location of a representative sample, or hopefully the original Shakespeare manuscripts) is under the “carved marble”, and is either the resting place of Edward de Vere and/or manuscripts written in de Vere’s own hand (Shakespeare’s PEN).  “PEN” fuses with “TENNANT”, hinting that the true occupant in the grave are writings written in pen; 7) although the words “of thy grave” are not connected to the letter-string cluster, they are an extension of it, making this observation relevant as well as the phrase is referring to the author of the penned writing(s) as well.  The “thy”, as shown in the arrays below, is identified in code as de Vere.

   Put all together, yields:  WHO (Hamlet:“Who’s there?”):  Edward de Vere.  WHAT:  Edward de Vere and possible penned manuscripts identifying him as Shakespeare.  WHERE:  in the Shakespeare tomb itself, which at the probable time of the writing of the Eulogy in 1622, has remained “unmolested”.  WHY:  to give credit to the true author of the works of Shakespeare.  WHEN:  since both the Eulogy and the the “carved marble” are coded, Shakespeare’s true identity can be known to those who can read for codes, as well as by “Doomesday” at the latest.  And finally, HOW:  because the ‘codes’ in the works of Shakespeare say so; and, although unstated, but in my view strongly suggested, is the command “SIEH”, as Ben Jonson might say, Open the grave and see for yourself what Shakespeare’s body is.”   (V.XII.MMXIII)  


William Basse, Eulogy poem, CODE, JPEG 

Centerwall in Holland, VEREH, plaintext  JPEG

                                                                           Fig. 3

[ Note:  in the plaintext in Fig. 3  the original spelling of the word “tragedian” is represented as “tragædian“.  The “æ” symbol is called an “ash”.  The ash is an early English ligature representing a vowel sound like that of “a”  in modern “bad”.  The long “ǣ continued in use until about 1250, but was finally replaced by “e”.  The short “æ was given up by 1150, being replaced usually by  “a”  but sometimes by “e”.  Thus, the word “tragaedian” is given (by me, in the plaintext) as “tragedian” as the assumption I made is that this lower case (miniscule) is intended to take the place of a single letter (because in an ELS, letters and numbers are “units”, and take a single place as a single unit) and not two–such as “ae”.  The letter-strings still survive. ]

   At this point in time, historical documents testify that William Basse’s elegy is the first known lamentation poem printed by anyone about the death of Shakespeare.  It was written sometime between 1616 (the date of the reported death of Shakespeare and the construction of his funerary monument) and the publication of the First Folio in 1623.  Since the time of its first publication between the latter dates, it appeared in several publications.  Several spelling versions now exist (some report as many as fifteen), making identification of the original a matter of speculation.  In fact, whether or not the elegy was written by William Basse is not entirely certain, although his authorship is highly probable, enough so that attribution for the poem is comfortably given to him.

   One such version (Fig. 3) is analysed by Brandon S. Centerwall in his essay, “Who Wrote William Basse’s ‘Elegy on Shakespeare’?:  Rediscovering a Poem Lost from the Donne Canon” (Shakespeare Survey Volume 59:  Editing Shakespeare, Ed. Peter Holland, Cambridge University Press, 2006).  My focus in each of the three versions of Basse’s elegy concerns whether or not the plaintext of the poem is encrypted; and, if so,  has the encryption survived the orthographic alterations seen in it, as well as whether or not this survival is attributable to a chance resiliency or to subsequent text protection by some person or persons “in the know” so as to cryptologically bear witness to Edward de Vere’s true identity as Shakespeare.

   Again, as with all the codes presented in this work, demonstrating “proof” of anything is not the primary goal.  Rather, strong suggestion for taking the codes shown as being valid and worthy of attention is the goal.  This, of course, is a matter of one’s ‘degree of belief ‘.

Centerwall in Holland, VERE:Shakespeare  JPEG

                                                                           Fig. 4A
   Or this:
Basse, VERE, HERE, JPEGFig. 4B

   Looking at the skip-of-one ELS of Array 15, I am immediately struck by its visual and letter symmetry.  In the context of the hundreds of letter-strings I have uncovered, this is yet another ‘coincidence’ of Edward de Vere being credited with authorship of the works of Shakespeare.  The meaning of the cluster, or should I say, its syntactical intention, is apparent.  One way of verbalizing it is:  “Placed in the Shakespeare sepulchre, under this carved marble, ‘layes’ Erle Vere, the tragedian, Shakespeare.”  Or:  “Erle Vere ‘layes’ under the carved marble of this sepulchre.”  Or simply, “Erle Vere is Shakespeare.”  Other syntaxes are possible, but the meaning of the cluster can only be put in the form of a declarative sentence:  that de Vere is Shakespeare.  Not Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Shakespere of Stratford-upon-Avon, Sackville, Fulke Greville, and so on.  When it comes to assigning identity to the man known as Shakespeare, de Vere is overwhelming the encrypted testimony in so many written sources that for me to see coincidence is not possible for the bulk of what I find in so many plaintext code searches.

   Lines 11 and 12  are noteworthy.  Line 11 sounds as if the poet is talking directly to someone, pointing out that the carved marble (a metaphor for the written, or ‘carved’ word) was perhaps composed by this ‘someone’).  Line 12 comes across as an enigmatic command for Shakespeare to sleep “alone”.  To make sense of this, notice that all the letters in the vertical letter-string, “VERE” (separated at an ELS of 15), in the plaintext, are in lines 11 and 12:  the “V” and “E” in line 11, and the “R” and “E” in line 12.  The ‘someone’ in line 11 is then revealed as “VERE”.  The plaintext then reveals what is hidden (or ‘sleeping’) ‘in’ and/or ‘buried’:  ‘buried’ within the marble monument, as well as ‘buried’ with the plaintext William Basse’s lamentation poem.

Lines 11-12, William Basse, JPEG

                                                                                Fig. 5

   As if to say:  All one (‘alone’) are you, Vere and Shakespeare (the ‘body’ of one person, and one ‘body’ of work.  Sleep under this carved marble.”  Taking this a step further, perhaps the words refer to the ‘body’ inside is both literal and figurative:  the body of Vere, and his (Shakespeare’s) body of work.

   Remember that  Shakespeare’s Sonnets were published in 1609.  William Basse almost certainly read them, and included, within his elegy, lines mirroring Sonnet 72, where Shakespeare says:

Sonnet 72, and Wm. Basse--lines 11-12  JPEG

                                                                          Fig. 6

Furthermore, it is truly remarkable that lines 11 and 12 of Sonnet 72 are reflected in William Basse’s elegy lines, 11 and 12.

Coincidence or deliberate design?  Random or intelligent design?

   Perhaps ‘body’, in both the literal and figurative senses, refer to the manuscripts alluded to in my discussion of Shakespeare’s grave.  In this regard, it’s possible de Vere’s body, and his ‘body’ of work (hinted at by the gravestone encryption, Ben Jonson’s encryption on the ‘carved’ marble, “Stay passenger”, and now William Basse’s elegy) are within or under the Shakespeare monument at Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Wm. Basse Eulogy, BERKELEY copy, plaintext, JPEG

                                                                             Fig. 7    

Wm. Basse Eulogy, BERKELEY copy JPEG

Wm. Basse Eulogy, plaintext, LANDSDOWNE, JPEG

                                                                            Fig. 8


                                                                             Fig. 9

To Be Redundant:

Berkeley, Landsdowne plaintexts  JPEGFollowed by the two respective Arrays 34:

Berkeley, Landsdowne JPEGNote:

Wm. Basse--pltx, Centerwall, Landsdowne, Berkeley, JPEG

     All three versions above (Centerwall,  each contain 3 Vs, found in the words:  “carved”, “cave”, “grave”.  In each case, the V in “carved” begins the vertical letter-string for “VERE”.  The encryption’s statement is unmistakeable, and yields an accurate sentence with the seeming intent to say:  “In this sepulchre, under this carved marble, lays Erle Vere, Lord Oxford, who is the tragedian Shakespeare.”  Other syntactical arrangements are possible, of course.  But the keywords placed strategically within the plaintext merely appear to refer to whom the public considers to be Shakespeare.  However, the true, but hidden, identity of Shakespeare, is Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl/Erle of Oxford.

   As if to validate the “VERE” letter-string and keyword cluster as authentic to the point of appearing like a written document (or ‘carved’ testimony), the earl’s  surname is placed within a symmetrical array of 34, whose calculated center point is Column 17 (17th Earle of Oxenforde).  There is no argument as to whether or not the letter-string and cluster are real, or whether any of this is an ‘interpretation’ such as would be the case when analyzing a poem for meaning, based on nuance, metaphorical intention, or punning — but that it is there, can be seen with 100% certainty.

   If any of what is shown above favors chance or random occurrence, this must be answered.  Mathematically, the raw odds favor intelligent design over fluke:

Fig. 9, EVEERO Raw Pr., JPEG

                                                                             Fig. 10

   Although it’s fine to have some numbers for support, they have be taken less seriously than the array content themselves.  When ciphertexts were designed, whether for espionage or for personal reasons, the coders and decoders were not thinking about whether or not what they had to say had any mathematical support.  For one thing, probability calculations were in their infancy.  For whatever reasons, those in espionage wanted to cover their tracts and not be caught.  While, at the same time, what was encoded was not intended to be too hard to decode.  As in the case of the Shakespeare sonnets, I believe encryptions were private, even scandalous, messages or disclosures that could be incriminating to themselves and others.  In many cases, a given letter-string (perhaps especially ones with surnames) were likely to have been signatures, much in the same way painters or sculptors sign their names on their works, or how idiosyncratic musical phrases can identify composers.  As an artist, Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps in the foremost of those who painted cryptological information into the ‘plaintext’ of his work, filling many, if not all, with enigma and symbolism.

   All versions of William Basse’s elegy end with the couplet (lines 15 – 16):

Couplet plaintext, JPEG

In working with possible ciphertext within a plaintext, I have at least four goals:  a) to understand the meaning of individual words; b) to understand the word (s) within the context of the plaintext (i.e., what the plaintext appears to be saying); c) clues to the possible presence of codes within the plaintext; d) to discover, through the application of equidistant letter sequencing to reveal the possible (or ‘probable’) meaning intended to be hidden within the plaintext; and how both ciphertext and plaintext work together.

   As I read Basse’s elegy over and over, the last couplet stuck in my mind like a melody in my head I sometimes get as a companion during the day; a tune I have a hard time getting rid of.  We have all had the “tune-I-can’t-get-out-of-my-head’ experience.  In my case, the length of time I carry the tune around in my head is when I’m especially attracted to the words in the song.

   When I came to Array 48 (Fig. 11), I noticed the letter-string “ODE” in Row 1, Column 1.  An “ode” is a song intended to be sung.  Some scholars claim Basse’s elegy is in the form of a sonnet.  In line with this, there is much scholarly opinion that makes the claim Shakespeare’s sonnets were songs, and, as such, were intended to be sung.

   There is no documentary evidence Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was either a musician or composer.  However, Edward de Vere was considered a master of composition as well as being able to play several instruments.  In sum:  the Authorship Question; sonnets as songs; the letter-string of “ODE”; the presence of “VERE” as ciphertext; and “ODE” at the beginning of Array 48.  The meaning (to me) of the final couplet was when I realized I had been looking, and not seeing, a horizontal placement of what may be coincidence, or part of a larger message that did fit into the context of ciphertext-to-plaintext.  Again, here is the couplet, with my emphasis:

Couplet, E. R., plaintext, JPEG

   Both Elizabeth I and her father Henry VIII often signed documents with their initials:  “H.R.” (“Henry Rex”) and “E.R.” (“Elizabeth Rex”).

[ Note:  I placed the final “e” of “thee” next to the array truncation “the” to produce “thee”.  A quick check of the other arrays above included “thee” without truncation. ]

Caveat Lector

# 1 Fig. 3, E.R. to be laid by thee, JPEG

                                                                          Fig. 11
# 2 Fig. 3, Array 49, E.R. to be laid by thee  JPEG

                                                                          Fig. 12

“Thy GRAVE:  Erle E.C.O.   E.R. to be laid by thee.”

   In a book published in 1893 entitled The Poetical Works of William Basse (1602 – 1653, R. Warwick Bond, M.A. Oxon.), the author reasons that Basse’s elegy was written sometime after the death of Shakespeare and before his interment.  Warwick surmised that since three renowned poets mentioned in the opening lines of the Elegy refer to three of the poets whose graves were alleged to be buried beneath the stones of Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, and that Beaumont is one of those mentioned, the poem must have been written after the death of Beaumont a month or so before the death of William Shakespeare in April of1616.  Warwick correctly reasoned that the removal of Shakespeare’s bones (‘dust’) could not have already been taken to Westminster as the elegy merely states Basse’s opinion, that the poet’s remains would be an apt place of burial in Poet’s Corner.  In short, either Basse is stating his opinion or he has some reason to believe Shakespeare’s remains were being considered for Westminster re-interment.  Warwick finishes his argument by saying (p. 144):  “It is more natural to suppose that the language (in the elegy) is merely figurative, and bears no reference to any actual grave at all.”  (my emphases)

   Warwick is partially correct.  The language in the elegy is figurative.  However, there appears to be the suggestion of something more literal and far-reaching than meets the eye.  Perhaps even conspiratorial.

   William Basse’s Elegy was the first known poem written about the death of Shakespeare, and was published in several publications in the 17th century.  Many eulogies to Shakespeare were subsequently written, but Basse’s is by far one of the most famous, second only to Ben Jonson’s tribute in the preface to the First Folio of 1623.

   Part of the continuing enigma of the Basse Elegy for this writer lies not in the composition of the poem, or in its lyrical qualities, or for any particular phrasing or for the beauty of its metaphors.  Its popularity, in the context of codes and hidden messages, is, in my opinion, the reason for its survival.  I believe many knew what the poem was really saying.  The ‘many’, however, were most likely those who knew exactly who the real ‘Shakespeare’ was.  I furthermore consider it more than likely the Basse elegy was a group-fashioned effort, much in the same way Shakespeare’s plays were written.  Much like how plays (stage or screen) are written today:  by group, with the playwright as creative consultant as well as having the final word in changes made to the script, and how it is to be performed.

   That Basse was chosen to take credit for its composition may have been due to his relatively low profile.  The reasoning may have been that his work would garner less scritiny by those who might suspect ciphertexts in anything relating to Shakespeare, especially if they were attributed to those who were well-known to, and close friends of, Edward de Vere.  I personally think it not possible that de Vere was virtually alone in his pen-name deception, and that his protected status by Elizabeth I and her coterie of spies made him invulnerable to harm.  Basse, I believe, was one of a group of writers skilled in cryptography, and had a part in the elegy’s composition.  And once published, even though many versions surfaced, the critical design preserved the ciphertext that de Vere was Shakespeare, and that the funerary monument held more than just knowledge.

   In the Elegy version cited by Centerwall in his essay about William Basse, notice that the 16th line of the plaintext is followed by a 17th one, that of his signature:  “Mr William Basse.”  Writers, sculptors, painters, and other creators of published work sign their names to their works.  William Basse was no different.  We can see that plainly in the 17th line.  But how would a master cryptographer sign his name?  After all, someone could easily erase an attribution, even though Basse signed his lamentation poem in his own hand.  Afterall, the poem was later attributed to John Donne, despite this signature on the plaintext.

   One of the driving forces behind my ‘degree of belief’ in all I have said above, is what I believe is William Basse’s ciphertext letter-string signature.  The design and strategic placement of this signature may have been of his own creation, or placed there by another.  However, it is there with 100% certainty:

BASSE, Mr William, letter-string, JPEG

                                                                           Fig. 13
BASSE Raw Pr. in Centerwall, JPEG
                                                                          Fig. 14

The plaintext and ciphertext signatures are symmetrically and strategically located, one in the beginning and one at the end:  “Mr William Basse”, “Mr William Basse”.

How to explain this?:  Coincidence, or intelligent design?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. William Ray
    May 11, 2013 @ 09:45:25

    This is very convincing. Did you know that Stanley Wells, in the BloggingShakespeare website, has fixed on the Basse tribute as proof of Shakspere’s authorship? He criticized Diana Price’s recent paperback version of her book, including this poem as part of his argument. I put in my two-cents’ worth in the comment section. best wishes, William Ray



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