The larks song in the early darkness is analogous to Wills
mournful singing in these hidden runic texts. Lines 10-11
identify either the poet or someone closer to the friend as the caller.
Many elements—including the pun th air in their
(3) and there (13)—develop singing as a motif that
parallels Wills own lyrics. The pun Whole th air parts
(3) describes harmonious polyphony, while Wills two conflicting
voices (see 5-7) show tension.
music also contrasts with Wills song—and
these two kinds of music differ from yet a third kind, the imagined riot
where the friend exists (13) .
and puns also deal with numbers, accounting, and enumeration—with
routine puns on one (e.g., mone , one
); on two (e.g., to [1, 3], Both, twaine
[14); and on four (e.g., fore , forrow
, forth ). References to all (3) and abundance
(9) and the opening pun on total (Q letterstring ...to
the L...) reinforce this cluster of tedious numeric wit.
Legal and naval
jargon and language about giving birth all add texture. Naval wit might
have appealed to Southampton, while the business about birthing might
engage the physician Dr. John Hall, Will’s son-in-law.
poet is an offender—with the buried etymological
term stumbler implying clumsy feet.
He bears illegitimate offspring that he loses after an
hour and that he is hauled into court for having misbegotten (5-7).
The phrase dearer birth (4)—one brought forth
(10) by love—energizes innuendoes in break (1), moan
(2), and giving parts (3). Arising" (1) almost
magically puns air I sing and arise, inch, adding
potential wit about an unstable morning erection that yields weak
relief (1-6). (Weak [Low] relief is also a sculptural
term for something molded with unemphatic contours.)
The early morning cry (1) from some birth also
paints a scenario in which a sleepy new parents response is a moan
Elizabeth, the Halls daughter and Wills granddaughter, born
February 1608, may be in Wills mind, the riot that Will
laments missing may be routine family business back in Stratford. The
final lament, I lose both twain, may allude to the death of
Wills son, Hamnet, twin to Judith, as part of the poets morbid
musings on th heir rotten (pun 13). Butt out,
alack, he was but one hour mine (5) may joke about a breech birth.
The play also echoes Out, out
and may lament the brevity of the sons life. Such puns as a
Miss you f--ked (seized) and heated (hated), see, Hall, son
(9-10) imply lewder family wit possibly aimed at Dr. Hall.
The linepun Anne, gainst myself a lawful plea commence (7)
suggests that the wife might initiate a divorce—or at least level
legitimate charges of desertion.
probably missed other instances, but Rune 39 is the first text
in the cycle in which I see whole there (their, theyre) parts
of me (3): Will and Anne, estranged; their children Sue (Susanna)
and the twins, Ham (Hamnet) and Judy (Judith)—the son now dead but
still the father’s greater grief (12); and Dr. John
and baby Elizabeth Hall, completing the family circle and suggesting a
date of composition or final editing ca. 1608-09.
Here are further
instances of family namepuns: Line 3 opens with a play on John Hall,
th heir... (W = IN = JN = John). Line 10 conflates
puns on Anne Hatha., son, hee,let
(elliptically, Ha[m]let), and Ham. The pun Hee[m]let
Ham bearing forth... suggests what others surely must have deduced—a
likely connection in Wills head between Hamnet (the son) and Hamlet
(the character). Alack, he was but one hour Hamnet; heaven dearest
sorrowll end, subito [unexpectedly]... (5-6) is a variant
pun about the dead son. One whore, my Annie, / the offender is...
(5-6) is a typical throwaway joke about the wife.
by accumulation, such plays always seem strained
and conjectural. Luckily, they are not at all strategic for making the
case that the lines in the 154 Runes cohere in a witty 14-line poem to
convey consciously crafted meanings.
line of conjecture, the puns Cell eye, cat, too... (1, with
( = C) and My cells a lawful place
immense (7) may point to Southamptons (Southys)
stay in The Tower and link with another pun on cat in line
1: One portrait of Southampton depicts Wills only known patron incarcerated
with a feline companion. Here the cat puns link with a play
on tabby in the acrostic letterstring (as TAW B). Feline
humor continues in Rune 40 (see, e.g., the pun in 40.8). The cell
pun also links with lurking nautical puns (e.g., berth, sea
omen see, boatswain) and with Wills sarcasm about
the public kindness (8) and sufficient abundance
(9) that some auditor—perhaps Southy—seems not to be providing
the poet at the moment.
toothy lark; licked “O”; Like tot, Hall…arising;
toad; cat; oft air I sing; arse-inch; Kate bare kissed “I”
Tottel or Kyd, bare aches (...bricks),” dare I sing this odd account?
Thief odd, I count; This adds cunt afore; beam on it, moan; sore
be m’ hone; the fey dick-cunt; “Count Two-for” (Tougher,
Defer) be Money Demon
new hole there parts, “O” seamy, toothy
O Hall (W=IN); John Hall, th’ heir, parts of me to thee
did give; awled Harry parts soft, meaty “O”; taut, he died,
Jew; meat; a ditch
oath, adage I weighed, eerier be earth
eerier be earth then; A dew rare be earth; Adieu; loved be Rood; his hell
A lark [eyepun]; Butt out, eye Jack, he was, butt wan, whore mine; m’
alack, he was but one hour, Hamnet; he was beauty wan, our Hamnet [Q
e mine,T, bracketed by “h’s”]; Butt owe you t’
Jack H.; use butt, honor m’ Annie
endears, Sorrow lends but weak relief [cf. The Crucifixion]; we a cur
leave; curly Eve; Th’ offenders four will in Dis be; sin dear is
Anne, gay Anne Shakespeare [st], myself—a lawful plea commence
(come and see); fool, please, homme-end see; missal; missile
feel, eye woeful place, omen see
[cutting up] “ortho-wit”
pub-like kin, an ass fon
our meat hating; Enter th’ “O” with pubic kindness—hone
our meat haughty in thigh
see, aye m’ Sue f--ked; a beau “indents” a ms. (Miss)
dance amiss, you f--ked Anne dead
Hath-at-sea (Q he that ca); Hall, son, the lead “him”
(lead hymn) bring forth; Anne [et] Ham. bearing forth; see Allison;
“K. Eleison” t’ heal (tell, toll)
Eye undated seal, sundial theme bring forth to entertain the time
bring forth 20 written that I mewed—thoughts of love
Tune; Twin-turd-Annie, that I mewed; Two entered Annie; I’m witty,
huge; To enter Annie that “I” may—wedded (wetted), huge—dissolve
died—low noise it is (I tease), a greater grief (aye greater, greasy);
End yet Jove knows
greasy Hall ate thee, entire, rotten, teary
[= IN] H., O, Lady John, th’ heir, ride (rot, read, red)
you in there (enter, inter); Herod
oath’s end—each “oather” and I lose, body wane;
I love (lose) both twain; Both sinned, each hot—her end, eye loose—both,
twain; ass in ditch ought Harry end
The downward acrostic code—( TW A BT AN TAT A WB[L?]—opens
with a play See L..., with a lefthand parenthesis mark punning
visually on C and thus on see. Both the up- and
down-versions of the acrostic letterstring code suggest variants of Anne
(e.g., AN, N) and ate (A8 [=AB]; AT [4 times]; AW8 [= AWB];
AWT; and so on) as well as tub or tubby. Versions
of the recurring joke about Annes obesity seem to be encoded. One
joke in line 14 of the main text, ...Anne I love [lose]—both,
two, Anne, seems to be a part of this wit—suggesting (here
as elsewhere) that Anne was big enough to be counted as two. Whether to
add the L on at the front or the end of the downward codeline is a conundrum;
both variants are possible, amplifying permutations here.
Readings of the downward codeline include, e.g., “See two
abut Anne, tidy eye a wobble,” “Seat wiped, Anne tidy eye
wobble,” “Seed wiped, ‘I’ untidy I whip,”
“City way be ta’en. Ta-ta! W. be…,” and “Seed
wabbit, Anne t’ tup.” The reading See tabby? Taint
a tabby (code C TWA B TANT A TAW B) is also possible. (“Cat
wit” in Q always suggests Southampton’s stay in The Tower,
where his companion was a feline that’s prominent in one portrait.)
Concurrently the joke See To be...? Taint
a To be... may allude to the set-piece soliloquy in
reverse code —[L?]B WAT A TN AT BAWT( —is
also amplified by the ambiguities of its first and (maybe) last symbols.
Readings include, e.g., “Libby weighed a ton—8 bodies!”
“Be Wyatt eaten, 8 [in.] bawdy see,” “Be wight at Nate
(Knight)…,” “Bawdy, a tenet bawdy see,” “Be
white? Aye. Tonight be odd,” and “Beweighted Anne, a tub,
a weight.” Codeforms suggest, variously, pound (as LB);
weight / White / weighty / Wyatt / weighted; tenet / tenant;
Nat / Nate / innate / knight / night; Tybalt; and bodice
/bawdy / body / bode / bawd.