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Edward de Vere's "Whenas the heart at tennis plays"

Updated on December 12, 2017
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Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford


Introduction: The Real "Shakespeare"

Scholars and critics and other readers of the writings of Shakespeare are coming around to the notion that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, employed the pen-name "William Shakespeare" under which he published his now widely famous plays and sonnets.

One of the most convincing reasons for the conclusion that de Vere wrote the works is that the man from Stratford had little education and none of the experience that de Vere had. Clearly, a highly educated an experienced individual was responsible for the texts we now know as those of "William Shakespeare."

Readers will be able to detect the similarities between this sonnet, "Whenas the heart at tennis plays," published under de Vere's name and the sonnets published under his pen-name, "William Shakespeare."

First Quatrain: "Whenas the heart at tennis plays, and men to gaming fall"

In the first quatrain, the speaker suggests that the two hearts involved in the romance of falling in love behave as two people playing tennis: "Love is the court, hope is the house, and favour serves the ball."

The speaker then claims that "The ball itself is true desert; the line, which measure shows, / Is reason, whereon judgment looks how players win or lose." The idea of winning and losing refers to the success of each lover in accomplishing the goals each takes for itself in the love relationship.

The tennis ball might metaphorically compare to love-letters, conversations, or other exchanges of love between the two partners, while the "line, which measure shows" is the gauge for judgment of each partner or "reason."

Second Quatrain: "The jetty is deceitful guile; the stopper, jealousy"

The second quatrain likens all of the negative activities that lovers might engage in while trying to secure their relationship: "The jetty is deceitful guile; the stopper, jealousy, / Which hath Sir Argus' hundred eyes wherewith to watch and pry."

Because of jealousy especially, the over-zealous lover might seem to have a "hundred eyes" as he watches every move his beloved makes. If he lacks "wit and sense," the jealous lover might discover that "The fault, wherewith fifteen is lost" while "he that brings the racket in is double diligence."

The jealous lover then goes without his joy as he fantasizes hurts. Thus he does not return the necessary volley of love messages, and because he loses patience, he fails to play, behaving as would a tennis player who through fits of anger breaks his tennis racket and storms off the tennis court.

Third Quatrain: "And lo, the racket is freewill, which makes the ball rebound"

On the other hand, the tennis racket should compare to "freewill" because it keeps the ball in play, which has a "noble beauty" as the players chase the ball over the court.

But the kind of "rashness" that "the stopper" would engage would cause the "ball" to go "awry." And those who are watching the "game" would gladly cheer as the ball is properly volleyed.

Couplet: "Now, in the end, good-liking proves content the game and gain"

In the couplet, the speaker reports that a calm ever-increasing shared relationship is like a game that contains both "game and gain."

However, for the entire game or relationship, the speaker has realized that it is a game mixed with pleasure and pain.

NOTE: Many Shakespeare scholars now believe that instead of man from Stratford it was the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, who wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare.

For useful and informative works discussing the writings of Edward de Vere and how they suggest that he was, in fact, the real "Shakespeare," please visit "'Shakespeare'" Revealed in Oxford's Poetry" and "Hank’s 100 Reasons Why Oxford was 'Shakespeare' — The List To Date."

Real Shakespeare: Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


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