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Spektrum Shake-speare

Schule und Unterricht 131 I AM THAT I AM – OXFORD’S LETTERS TO BURGHLEY BETWEEN 1575 AND 1584 AND SHAKESPEARE’S SONNET 121 In January 1575 Oxford leaves England for Italy. In March he is in Paris and receives a letter from Lord Burghley that his wife is with child. Oxford is sa- tisfied for two reasons. The first reason he gives relates to his travels, only the second to a possible successor. «For now it hath pleased god to give me a son of mine own (as I hope it is), methinks I have the better occasion to travel, since whatsoever becomes of me, I leave behind me one to supply my duty and service either to my prince or else my country.» Knowing that he possibly will have a son to continue the ancestral line, he can more light-heartedly proceed with his travels. From a letter of 24 September 1575 one could conclude he is less concer- ned about his health than about the restrictions his weakness will impose on the time available for travelling. «Yet with the help of god now I have recove- red the same and am past the danger thereof though brought very weak the- reby, and hindered from a great deal of travel. Which grieves me most, fear- ing my time not sufficient for my desire.» On 27 November 1575: «And as concerning my own matters, I shall desire your Lordship to make no stay of the sales of my land, but that all things ac- cording to my determination before I came away.» In Oxford’s letter of 3 January 1576 emerges the fundamental and irreconcilable opposition bet- ween Oxford’s and Burghley’s worldviews. Oxford wants to go on with the sale of his land so that he may continue his travels; Burghley advises him otherwise. «In doing these things your lordship shall greatly pleasure me. In not doing them you shall as much hinder me … Mine is made to serve me and my self, not mine.15 » In Italy Oxford was looking to satisfy his thirst for lear- ning and art. The phrase expresses that aesthetic self-realisation was his sup- reme aim to which anything else was subordinated. A very important letter in connection with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 121 – its importance seems to have passed unnoticed thus far – is that of 10 July 1576. Oxford writes to Burghley: «Now if your Lordship shall do so, then you shall 15 Mine here: Material possessions.