Premise: Could Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, have written his own “Bible” via the works of Shakespeare? I propose Oxford left us his most wicked play indeed… the plays would be his scriptures and the Sonnets, his Psalms. Just as God needed a servant to speak His words, Oxford would need such a man to speak his own words… one William Shakespeare of Stratford i.e. a common man speaking the words of the Lord. Such a relationship would ultimately lead the masses to idolize Shakespeare for hundreds of years.
A presentation of the facts is as follows:
I. The Lord Be Praised
In Troilus and Cressida the servant speaks the religious phrase, “The Lord be praised” (3.1.8 ).
Dr. Naseeb Shaheen states the phrase is “a pun on the word ‘Lord’” as it applies “to both [Lord] Paris and God.” He further notes that this phrase is “the most often repeated admonition in Scripture,” particularly in the Psalms.(fn. 1) Would de Vere equate his own lordship status with God?
After all, a Vere was instrumental in placing the Tudors on the throne of England. And it was Henry VIII who first pronounced that God himself had anointed the Tudors. Did de Vere pick up on the fact that Henry VIII himself had equated the name “Vere” with God? Is this the basis for de Vere’s own irreverent pun?
II. A Better and More Orderlie Scripture
Late December 1580, Charles Arundel accused Oxford of saying “that he cold make a better and more orderlie scripture in six dayes warninge.”(fn. 2) Per St. Augustine’s On the Trinity 1.6.5: “Souls in their very sins seek but a sort of likeness to God, in a proud and perverted, and so to say, slavish freedom.”(fn. 3) If, as Maren-Sofie Røstvig suggests, St. Augustine “assumed that God is the author of the Bible as well as of the universe, that the two are constructed in much the same manner [i.e. in six days], and that the divinely inspired poet would imitate the creative procedure of the Deity”(fn. 4), then was de Vere following God’s providence by creating his own Bible in six days?
Per I Samuel 6.9 note “f”, as marked in the de Vere Geneva Bible(fn. 5), “[T]here is nothing done with out Gods providence & decree.” Compare Exodus’ argument: “… [T]hei shulde not serve God after their owne inventions, but according to that ordre, which his heavenlie wisdom had appointed.”
References to God’s will in Shakespeare include:
a. Sonnet 134: “And I my selfe am morgag’d to thy will”
b. Sonnet 135: “Wilt thou whose will is large and spatious, Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine”
c. Sonnet 136: “Will, will fulfill the treasure of thy love…” Compare Matthew 6.21: “For where your treasure is, there wil your heart be also.”
According to Shaheen, Shakespeare, in writing his plays, “seldom borrows biblical references from his sources, even when those sources contain many references.”(fn. 6) Roy Battenhouse notes that the Shakespearean tragedy “frequently echoes Bible language or paradigm, even when the play’s setting is pagan.”(fn. 7) Similarly, Peter Milward notes that despite their secular appearance, Shakespeare’s plays “conceal an undercurrent of religious meaning which belongs to their deepest essence.”(fn. 8 )
Further, Milward maintains that although Shakespeare “may have felt obliged by the circumstances of the Elizabethan stage to avoid Biblical or other religious subjects for his plays,” such obligation “did not prevent him from making full use of the Bible in dramatizing his secular sources and thus infusing into them a Biblical meaning.”
In writing his plays (in particular, the tragedies), Shakespeare “shows the universal relevance of the Bible both to the reality of human life ‘in this harsh world’ and to its ideal in the heart of God.”(fn. 9)
Steven Marx suggests “a thorough familiarity with the Scriptures” is a prerequisite to understanding the Biblical references in the plays, and that the plays’ references to the Bible “illuminate fresh and surprising meanings in the biblical text.”(fn. 10)
These attributes of the author of the plays as noted by Shaheen, Battenhouse, Milward, and Marx suggest an author who has an intimate working knowledge of scripture which he used for his own purposes of persuasion. Per Troilus and Cressida 3.2.152-3: “Yet after all comparisons of truth, (As truths authenticke author to be cited),” all things come from God and hence God is the ultimate author of any work.
Again, was de Vere following God’s order by writing his own scripture? Marx notes that “it is possible that Shakespeare sometimes regarded his own role of playwright and performer as godlike, his own book as potent and capacious as ‘The Book’.”(fn. 11) Also, it should be noted that in late December 1580, Henry Howard accused Oxford of saying that the Bible “was mans devis [i.e. device].”(fn. 12)
With regards to the sonnets, Alastair Fowler notes that “the entire set of regular sonnets corresponds numerically [i.e. 150] to the entire set of psalms.”(fn. 13) Further, Fowler recalls that Dr. Leslie Hotson argued in his book entitled Mr. W. H. that “the contents of several of Shakespeare’s sonnets correspond to those of psalms bearing the sane [sic] numbers in the Book of Common Prayer.”(fn. 14) Based upon David’s providence to write the Psalms, per I Samuel 16.13, “… And the Spirit of the Lord came upon David, from that day forwarde,” was de Vere following the footsteps of the Psalmist by writing the Sonnets?
III. The Virtue of Charity
Per the research of Dr. Roger Stritmatter, the annotator of the de Vere Geneva Bible “seems clearly preoccupied with certain definite themes” including “the virtue of charity.”(fn. 15) Such well-known charitable acts by Oxford included his sponsorship of the publication of several books, the bail-out of Jasper Fisher (i.e. Fisher’s Folly), and (in the account of the Democritean philosopher Nicholas Hill) the comical gift of ten pounds to a beggar in Italy:
“A poor man asked Mr. Hill, his lordship’s [Oxford’s] steward, once to give him sixpence, or a shilling, for an alms. ‘What dost say, if I give thee ten pounds?’ ‘Ten pounds! that would make a man of me!’ Hill gave it him, and put down in his account, ‘£10 for making a man,’ which his lordship inquiring about for the oddness of the expression, not only allowed, but was pleased with it.”(fn. 16)
Such story puns on the idea that the Lord created man. Would de Vere make his own man (i.e. William of Stratford) in his own image of an author by giving William authorship of his works?
With regards to the Shakespearean sonnets, C. S. Lewis idealizes that the greatest “are written from a region in which love abandons all claims and flowers into charity…”(fn. 17) Would de Vere continue his reputation as a giving person by authoring the Sonnets?
IV. We Shuld Be As Yf We Had Never Ben
Late December 1580, Charles Arundel accused Oxford of also saying “that he culd prove by scripture that after this life we shuld be as yf we had never ben,”(fn. 18) which corresponds to the following passages:
a. Matthew 6.1: “Take hede that ye give not your almes before men, to be sene of them, or els ye shal have no rewarde of your father which is in heaven.”
b. Matthew 6.4: “That thine almes may be in secret, & thy Father that seeth in secret, he wil rewarde thee [Note] (“d”) openly.” Note “d”: “In that day when all things shal be reveiled.” Compare Micah 7.9: “[T]hen wil he bring me forthe to the light, & I shal se his righteousnes.”
c. Matthew 6.19-21: “Lay not up treasures for your selves upon the earth… But lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven… For where your treasure is, there wil your heart be also.” Compare both II Esdras 8.54: “… and in the end is shewed the treasure of immortalitie” and 2 Henry VI 2.1.18: “The Treasurie of everlasting Joy.”
d. Ecclesiasticus 35.2: “[H]e that giveth almes sacrificeth praise.”
e. II Corinthians 4.18: “[F]or the things which are sene, are temporal: but the things which are not sene, are eternal.”
These five passages are representative of another theme identified by Stritmatter in the de Vere Geneva Bible, “the value of secret works.”(fn. 19) In order to attain the ideal of an eternal life in God’s kingdom, one must forego an earthly remembrance for one’s good deeds. Sonnet 72 defines this obscurity: “My name be buried where my body is…”
Oxford’s own poem very nicely sums up the definition of “secret works”:
Weare I a kinge I coulde commande content;
Weare I obscure unknowne shoulde be my cares,
And weare I ded no thought should me torment,
Nor wordes, nor wronges, nor loves, nor hopes, nor feares;
A dowtefull choyse of these thinges one to crave,
A Kingdom or a cottage or a grave.(fn. 20)
According to both Philip Sidney’s reply to Oxford: “… An easy choice of these things which to crave, No kingdom nor a cottage but a grave,” and Judicio’s reply to Ingenioso’s request for his opinion regarding William Shakespeare in “The Returne from Parnassus” (play, 1606): “… Could but a graver subject him content, Without loves foolish languishment,” it should be apparent that a grave will satisfy the idea that after life “we shuld be as yf we had never ben,” in that a grave will give de Vere his obscurity (on earth) which will lead him to his kingdom (in heaven).(fn. 21)
Compare Coriolanus: “He wants nothing of a God but Eternity, and a Heaven to Throne in” (5.4.17-18). It should also be noted that an interesting anagram occurs on the title page of Henry Peacham’s Minerva Britanna (1612): the phrase “MENTE.VIDEBOR” yields “De Vere in tomb.”
Per Sonnet 136: “In things of great receit with ease we proove, Among a number one is reckon’d none. Then in the number let me passe untold, Though in thy stores account I one must be, For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold, That nothing me, a some-thing sweet to thee,” where “number” represents population and “thy stores account” represents God’s account (i.e. book of remembrance).
Essentially, nothing will accrue to the writer; all his works will accrue to God, the ultimate creator. Compare Tobit 4.9-10: “For thou laiest up a good store for thy self against the day of necessitie, Because almes doeth deliver from death…”
Several other passages in the Shakespeare canon relate to the theme of “secret works” and its all-encompassing state of obscurity:
a. Sonnet 26: “Lord of my love, to whome in vassalage Thy merrit hath my dutie strongly knit; To thee I send this written ambassage To witnesse duty, not to shew my wit.” Compare Richard III 2.1.3-4: “I, every day expect an Embassage From my Redeemer, to redeeme me hence.”
b. Sonnet 8: “Whose speechlesse song being many, seeming one, Sings this to thee thou single wilt prove none.”
c. Sonnet 10: “Who for thy selfe art so unprovident Graunt if thou wilt, thou art belov’d of many, But that thou none lov’st is most evident…”
d. Sonnet 72: “For you in me can nothing worthy prove.”
e. Sonnet 109: “To leave for nothing all thy summe of good…”
f. Romeo and Juliet 1.2.32-3: “Which one more veiw, of many, mine being one, May stand in number, though in reckning none.”
The dominant theme of the above passages is the concept of “one is reckoned none” which again refers to the idea that after life “we shuld be as yf we had never ben.”
V. It Must First Appear to Be the Truth
Luther, via his “dualistic thinking,” argues that “before the world can be seen to be a lie it must first appear to be the truth.” Luther’s reasoning follows along with his “We cannot reach heaven until we first descend into hell”(fn. 22) i.e. we must know one extreme to know the other.
According to Lisa Freinkel, Luther’s “dualistic thinking” fails to end one extreme as the other prevails but rather the two “remain forever conjoined as the twin pulses of God’s Word,” i.e. “an essential and ceaseless ambivalence” between “mutually exclusive alternatives.”(fn. 23)
Agreeably, these dual alternatives exist within the natural scheme of the world. Arguably, they do not co-exist on an individual level. Such mutually exclusive events occur as an either/or event for the individual, i.e. we cannot be in both heaven and hell at the same time. Similarly, a lie cannot be the truth. To know one extreme, the other will be subsumed via its opposite effect.
Presumably, these dual mutually exclusive alternatives are of equal though opposite polarity (i.e. negative vs. positive). Then, on an individual level, one extreme would cancel out the other, leaving neither alternative to prevail but rather leaving a zero (i.e. a “nothing”). Further, Røstvig notes that “the Fall [of man] is not merely annulled by the scheme of redemption, but out of the two is created a harmony superior to the one that was lost.”(fn. 24) Such harmony from discord(fn. 25) in effect creates a stillness; peace. Compare I Kings’ argument: “… (who then favoreth them when his worde is truly set foorthe, vertue estemed, vice punished, and concorde mainteined)…,” i.e. virtue over vice results in concord.
The lines in Sonnet 144, “Two loves I have of comfort and dispaire, Which like two spirits do sugiest me still…” follow Luther’s “dualistic thinking,” in that “comfort” is the opposite of “dispaire” like, per the author, the oppositional good and bad guardian angels. The author, as an individual, is suggesting the two opposites will in effect “sugiest me still,” hence a zeroing of his accounts with a remaining harmonious chord.
Thus within Luther’s two extremes of “lie” and “truth,” the truth will cancel out the lie, leaving, not the truth, but rather a stillness; peace.
Per Sonnet 136: “That nothing me, a some-thing sweet to thee,” reflects the idea that a work results, not in praise, but rather in “nothing” but a “sweet to thee” i.e. a harmonious chord.
Compare the concept of “discord (i.e. work)” vs. “harmony”:
a. Hamlet 1.5.183: “Rest, rest perturbed Spirit”; perturbed vs. rest
b. II Samuel (argument): “… and how by God’s assistance, he overcame all difficulties, & enjoyed his kingdome in rest and peace”; difficulties vs. rest and peace
c. Revelations 14.13: “… Even so saith the Spirit: for they rest from their labours, and their workes followe them”; labours vs. rest. Compare I Kings 5.4 note “a”: “He declareth yt he was bounde to set forthe Gods glorie, forasmuche as ye Lord had sent him rest and peace.”
The above three passages suggest there is no earthly accrual (i.e. praise) for works; the result of works is merely harmonic to the individual’s schema in that one must work in order to rest; one does not work for praise. Compare Isaiah 45.13: “I have raised him up in righteousnes, & wil direct all his waies: he shal buylde my citie, and he shal let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith ye Lord of hostes” (emphasis supplied).
Oxford, in his own poem “In praise of a contented minde” writes “But all the pleasure that I finde, is to maintaine a quiet minde,”(fn. 26) telling us that a constant “stillness” (i.e. harmony) is the praise.
Per The Merchant of Venice 3.2.73-4, “So may the outward showes be least themselves The world is still deceiv’d with ornament,” on an individual level, would the true authorship of the Shakespeare canon cancel out the lie of William of Stratford (i.e. “deceiv’d with ornament”), leaving a stillness (i.e. “the world is still”)? But within the world as a whole, would the true author co-exist with his imitator?
Compare “[F]or there is an upstart crow…” from Robert Greene’s “Title, Dedication and Address” of Groats-worth of Witte (1592), i.e. a crow is attracted to shiny things which he will take to be his own; at face value, the things appear to be his since he sees his own reflection but, as shiny things usually are, appearances can be quite deceiving. Hence “The world is still deceiv’d with ornament,” where ornaments are things that attract. Such superficial things portray discord (i.e. a lie) rather than harmony (i.e. the truth) as they seek accruement in the form of praise. The truth rests without praise.
VI. The Voice of Truth
Freinkel notes that “in a Judeo-Christian context, authority is always mediated, the voice of truth is always scriptural.”(fn. 27) Similarly, per Freinkel, St. Augustine argues first in his De Magistro “that truth cannot be conveyed by external means, but must instead be instilled in our hearts by Christ.”(fn. 28) In the Bible, God speaks His truth indirectly to us through his servant, Christ. Per Troilus and Cressida 3.2.141-2: “I am as true, as truths simplicitie, And simpler then the infancie of truth,” God is truth.
The following passages reflect the idea that God is in our hearts; the inner truth is God:
a. I Samuel 16.7: “… Loke not on his countenance, nor on ye height of his stature… for God seeth not as man seeth: for man loketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord beholdeth the heart.” Contrast Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech in The Merchant of Venice, i.e. a Jew is judged by what is in his heart (specifically, not Christ) rather than by his appearance.
b. Sonnet 116: “Whose worths unknowne, although his hight be taken.”
c. Sonnet 24: “They draw but what they see, know not the hart.”
d. Love’s Labour’s Lost 4.1.32-33: “When for Fames sake, for praise an outward part, We bend to that, the working of the hart.”
Based upon the knowledge that “Vere” means “truth,” would de Vere, upon writing his own “Bible,” need his own servant to speak his Lord’s words of “truth”? Is this another irreverent pun for de Vere?
VII. The Imitation of the Savior
According to Stritmatter, “From his reading of Calvin’s preface to the Psalms… de Vere would have taken to heart the ideal of David as his model for the true Christian vocation of the imitation of the savior.”(fn. 29) He also states that “Renaissance readers followed the tradition of internal attribution by which seventy-three of the psalms are said to be the work of David,”(fn. 30) and that David “was an awful sinner who wrote the Psalms… to repent for his sins.”(fn. 31) Based upon the well-known fact that Oxford was “a sinner,” would he himself have followed David’s lead in writing the Sonnets to atone for his sins?
The following passages reflect the theme of “David”:
a. I Samuel 6.9 note f: “[T]here is nothing done with out Gods providence & decree.”
b. I Samuel 16.13: “… And the Spirit of the Lord came upon David, from that day forwarde…”
c. I Samuel 16.23: “And so when the evil spirit of God came upon Saul, David toke an harpe and plaied with his hand, & Saul was refreshed, & was eased: for the evil spirit departed from him.”
David played a 10-stringed instrument. Shakespeare’s sonnets contain 10-syllabled lines. The Sonneteer, in imitation of David, is “playing” his 10 strings of syllables. Røstvig notes that 10 is “the symbol of the fulfilment of the law in good works.”(fn. 32) She further argues that the concept “of Christ himself as a musical instrument [i.e. servant] should be connected with the idea of the creation of harmony from discord.”(fn. 33)
Per Troilus and Cressida: “Take but Degree away, un-tune that string, And hearke what Discord followes….” (5.4.17-18). Similarly, Dante’s City of Dis, an echo of St. Augustine’s Earthly City of discord, was populated by “those souls who have turned from God to serve human glory.”(fn. 34) Harmony, therefore, may be associated with service to God via “good works.”
The 14-lines of the regular sonnets represent a 8 + 6 configuration. Røstvig notes that 8 refers to “resurrection” and 6 refers to “redemption.”(fn. 35) The two extremes would, based on an individualistic view of Luther’s “dualistic thinking,” cancel out each other again creating “a stillness”. To be resurrected, one must first be redeemed from sin. The Sonneteer, again in imitation of David, is atoning for his sins. The concept of “secret works” to atone for one’s sins will ultimately lead to eternal life. Compare Oxford’s own poem “Weare I a kinge I coulde commande content…” which contains 6 lines of 10 syllables.
Based on the Pythagorean theorem, where 6^2 + 8^2 = 10^2, we can see how the concept of “good works” to atone for one’s sins leads to a heavenly reward.”(fn. 36)
VIII. Misfortune and Discord
Edward de Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford.
Fowler states that 17 “was a familiar Pythagorean number symbolic of misfortune and discord,”(fn. 37) that the Pythagorean triangle rising on 17 as base (i.e. 153) “denotes believers risen in Christ and endowed with the Spirit,” and that 153 “pertains to the resurrection of eternal life.”(fn. 38) He further maintains that the exclusion of Sonnet 136 per its self-referencing “Among a number one is reckon’d none” suggests that “the structural pattern of the irregular sonnets constitutes arrangement in a sequence of 153 + 1.”(fn. 39) Compare Job 32.8: “Surely there is a spirit in man [Note] (“f”), but the inspiracion of the Almightie giveth understanding.” Note “f”: “It is a special gift of God that man hathe understanding, and cometh neither of nature nor by age.”
Per Troilus and Cressida: “As true as Troylus, shall crowne up the Verse, And sanctifie the numbers”(3.2.154-5), did Oxford “crowne up the Verse” by endowing Will of Stratford with his authorship (i.e. “spirit”) and thus “sanctify” (i.e. create harmony from discord) his numerologically inspired words?
a. I Thessalonians 4.3: “For this is the wil of God even your sanctification…”
b. I Corinthians 6.11: “… but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
IX. A Simple Man
Late December 1580, Charles Arundel accused Oxford of also saying “that Christ was a simple man.”(fn. 40) Just as God chose Christ to be his servant, could de Vere have chosen William Shakespeare of Stratford to be his servant? Several passages in both the de Vere Geneva Bible and the Shakespeare canon illustrate the concept of God’s anointed i.e. those chosen to do God’s will. Could William of Stratford be the Will of the Lord (Oxford)?
a. I Corinthians 6.17: “But he that is joyned unto ye Lord, is one spirit.”
b. Isaiah 43.11: “I even I, am ye Lord, & beside me there is no Savior.”
c. Hosea 2.19: “And I wil marie thee unto me for ever…” Compare Sonnet 116: “Let me not to the marriage of true mindes Admit impediments…”
The previous evidence offers an irreverent punning hat trick for de Vere (i.e. Lord = God; Vere = God; Vere = Truth = God), and further suggests Oxford did indeed write his own “Bible” via the works of Shakespeare. De Vere performed a “secret work” per God’s will by giving away his works to another man (i.e. an act of charity). If the intent of the author of the Shakespearean works was to perform a “secret work” (i.e. labor of love) as evidenced throughout the plays and sonnets, then William of Stratford would be disqualified as its author since it’s no secret he wrote his own works.
Further, if we accept the de Vere Bible themes of “secret works” and “David” apply to I Samuel 16.7 (man looks on the outward appearance but God holds the heart i.e. don’t judge a book by it’s cover), then there *cannot* be a question of authorship because we are judging Will of Stratford by his cover (pun intended : ). Some sort of hypocrisy (i.e. fatal flaw) rule should apply here — meaning that if we didn’t judge Will by what we know he didn’t do, there is no need for the question, and the idea de Vere wrote the Shakespeare canon pseudonymously is moot.
Also, de Vere’s own providence should remain inviolate by not revealing the true authorship of the Shakespeare canon.
Hence, de Vere’s eternal state of obscurity on earth (i.e. a stillness) must continue intact. Based upon Sonnet 81: “When all the breathers of this world are dead, You still shall live (such vertue hath my Pen) Where breath most breaths, even in the mouths of men,” and Ovid’s Metamorphoses XV.875-8 (per Stritmatter’s translation)(fn. 41): “The better part of me shall rise into the starry heavens And then my name shall printed be, indelibly in brass(fn. 42), However far as Roman might holds sway across the conquered earth, I still shall be remembered in the mouths of men,” it must be concluded the author of the Shakespearean works wants us to remember and speak his words (i.e. “in the mouths of men”), and not his name.
“[I]n a names that which we call a Rose, By any other word would smell as sweete.” The author’s name will be recorded in heaven for his earthly secret works. On earth, the body is gone and hence his name is moot; all that remains of the author are his words.
Finally, Mark Anderson eloquently sums up the Shakespeare canon: “Writing ultimately became a cathartic exercise performed not for his [Oxford’s] sovereign or for his peers but rather for himself-his own mechanism for psychological and spiritual salvation.”(fn. 43)
Bracketed words in quotes are my insertion.
(2) Alan H. Nelson transcription “Libels Part 4. Charles Arundel contra Oxford: formal statement and three libels,” http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ahnelson/LIBELS/libel4.html . Per Mark Anderson, Shakespeare By Another Name (2005), p. 167, Alan H. Nelson “essentially treats the Libels as statements of documentary fact.”
(4) Maren-Sofie Røstvig, “Structure as prophecy: the influence of biblical exegesis upon theories of literary structure,” from Silent Poetry: Essays in Numerological Analysis, ed. Alastair Fowler, 1970, p. 33
(12) Alan H. Nelson transcription “Libels Part 3. Henry Howard contra Oxford: letters and libels,” http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ahnelson/LIBELS/libel3.html . Per Mark Anderson, Shakespeare By Another Name (2005), p. 167, Alan H. Nelson “essentially treats the Libels as statements of documentary fact.”
(26) May pp. 39-40. Dr. May lists this poem as “possibly by Oxford.” Per his notes, May suggests that Oxford “may have written it” per his article “The Authorship of ‘My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is,’” The Review of English Studies, New Series, vol. 26, 1975, pp. 385-94.
(36) Compare Hamlet 5.2.143-6: “The King, sir, hath laid, sir, that in a dozen passes between yourself and him he shall not exceed you three hits. He hath laid on twelve for nine*; and it would come to immediate trial if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer,” where 12 = salvation [Douglas Brooks, “Symbolic Numbers in Fielding’s Joseph Andrews,” from Silent Poetry, ed. Fowler, p. 252] and 9 = heavenly, immortal [Fowler p. 20].
Based on the Pythagorean theorem, where 12^2 + 9^2 = hypotenuse, the third “hit” per Hamlet would represent the hypotenuse (15^2). We can see how the concept of salvation leads to heaven via the 15 steps of Jacob’s ladder (i.e. the stairway to heaven). Røstvig confirms that “the 15 steps symbolize all that is done in both Testaments to secure salvation for man.” [p. 44]
*Note: The First Folio shows these lines as “The King Sir, hath laid that in a dozen passes betweene you and him, hee shall not exceed you three hits; he hath one twelve for mine, and that would come to imediate tryall, if your Lordship would vouchsafe the Answere.” [my emphasis]
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