All posts by Joshua Gray

4 reasons why Avisa in ‘Willobie’s His Avisa’ is Queen Elizabeth I

This is Part 2 in a two-part series!

This blog post assumes you’ve read the first part in this series, 6 reasons why the author of ‘Willobies’s His Avisa’ was Edward de Vere

Penelope is for fools

There are Oxfordians who believe that that Avisa was based on a woman of the times and a love of Edward de Vere, named Penelope Rich. They think this, among other reasons, because the name Penelope appears in the text.

But to me that claim holds no water, because there are other names mentioned in the poem, including but not limited to:

Mars, Cupid, Pheobus, Diana, Juno, Ulysses, Cressid(a), Aeneas, and many others names found in the Christian Holy Bible.

Do you see a theme? The names listed are all from greco-roman mythology. Penelope is just another name on the list.

I should briefly mention that Cressida is featured in one of Shakespeare’s most important plays.

The suitors, again

One thing to notice is the suitors, not individually as already mentioned, but as a group within the story, as well as in context of Avisa’s personal situation.

Avisa was a maid (unmarried) with the first suitor, but for the rest of them, she was married (readers knew she was married, but never to whom).

Enter Queen Elizabeth I.

The entire situation, as well as the story of the poem, is an allegory. Queen Elizabeth married her people, which was a huge symbol of devotion. But before she became queen, she had suitors, specifically one suitor. After Elizabeth married her people, she had several suitors, all of them she declined marriage to. It’s interesting to note they all came from foreign lands, except the one she was in love with. He was English, and was her Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.


I was talking to my dad, who is also an Oxfordian, though not familiar with this poem, and he commented that he had never heard the name Avisa before, that it seems unique. I told him that’s because Avisa isn’t a name so much as an acronym that means something.

AVISA image

If you don’t understand the font in this image, it reads:

A.V.I.S.A. — Amans. Vxor. inviolata. semper. amanda

That is in effect. A loving wife, that never violated her faith, is always to be beloved.

The words are Latin. To me, it is a statement that describes none other than Queen Elizabeth.

Always the Same

The final cantos of the poem is in Avisa’s voice. And she ends her cantos by signing her name thus:

Always the same, Avisa.

Curious, isn’t it? What’s Queen Elizabeth’s motto? Semper eadem, which is Latin. It translates as Always the same.

6 reasons why the author of ‘Willobie’s His Avisa’ was Edward de Vere

This is Part 1 in a two-part series!

Those damn initials

Willobie’s His Avisa has two curious initials. Willobie’s His Avisa is a long Elizabethan poem about a woman, Avisa, which has a series of suitors who want her hand. The last suitor is the poet, and he comes with the friend. The last suitor’s initials are H.W., and his friend is W.S. There are many who believe W.S. is William Shakespeare, and H.W. is a friend-poet.

But while I believe W.S. is William Shakespeare, I do not think H.W. is just a random friend, looking at it from an Oxfordian perspective.

(Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford at the time of the reign of Elizabeth I, was a well-known incredible poet to the best degree. Oxfordians are people who believe Oxford was Shakespeare. )

And one of the theories is that Oxford was also the biological father of Henry Wriothesley (H.W.). So then it makes perfect sense for W.S. and H.W. to be together.


One might ask, but if that’s that case, wouldn’t it then follow that H.W. is really Henry Wriothesley? On the surface, yes, but if there’s one thing we know about Shakespeare, whoever he is, it’s that he never does anything that’s only surface-level. It is more likely that Shakespeare is the author of Willobie’s His Avisa, and as Oxford, is simply tipping his hat to his son. Which bring me to…

The pen-name

Did you know that the majority of early publications with the name Shakespeare in it, the name is written as Shake-speare? The entire name William Shake-speare to people of the day would automatically make them think of Pallas Athena, known as the spear shaker.  The name William means “gilded helmet”, which she wore. Shake-speare is a pen name.

Likewise, so is Willobie. The name does not appear as an actual person, anywhere.

One day I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, and I had a copy of the poem which I put down on a chair next to me. My copy had the name spelled Willoby. The copy was a facsimile of the 1635 edition (the poem as published in 1594).

I stared at the name and sort of broke it down. Will-O-by. Will-O-by. I realized it could be a pen-name that explains who wrote Shakespeare. Will(iam Shakespeare)-O(xford)-by. In other words, Shakespeare is by Oxford. I got really excited, and contacted another Oxfordian, Hank Whittemore. Hank had a facsimile copy of the 1594 edition, but said it was Willobie. I became deflated.

But then I realized it isn’t much different. If you take out “by” and insert “bie”, what you have is an indication not of who wrote the works, but who is (“bie”=”be”) whom.

It’s important to note that the Oxfordians believe Oxford identified himself by inserting “O” where “Oh” should be. There is an entire level of secrecy that was not only warranted, but required. However this is beyond the scope of this article.

The other suitors

As I mentioned, the poem has five suitors. Spanish, Italian, French, German and English. What a curious thing, if the man from Stratford was Shakespeare. He may have understood English culture, but since he did not travel to the mainland, he couldn’t have known about the others.

In 1574, Oxford went to the mainland for a prolonged stay. He spent much time in Italy, some in France and Spain. I’m not sure about Germany.

The Rape of Lucrece

If you’re not convinced by now that Shakespeare wrote this poem, consider this. Willobie’s His Avisa references The Rape of Lucrece in the verses prior to the the poem itself:

And Shakespeare paints poor Lucrece rape

While it’s been said that this is the first mention in English literature of the country’s great poet, it is not what I am interested in. According to the timeline tediously made by Charton Ogburn, in September of 1594 Willobie His Avisa was published with an unnamed author. Also in 1594, The Rape of Lucrece was registered and published “later in the year”. Therefore, Rape of Lucrece was most likely published after Willobie His Avisa, or at least at the same time. Which means Willobie’s His Avisa was already written. So the author/poet either had an advanced copy (not likely if Shakespeare lived in Stratford-on-Avon), or they are one and the same authors.


This blog post was originally published 18 hours ago, but u forgot one. Silly me.

I already mentioned a sort of prologue of verse. Now for the epilogue of verse.

After the poem there is a shorter piece of verse called “The Praise of a Contented Mind,” which is signed at the end,

ever or never.

Ever/Never was also used by Edward de Vere to identify himself as the author of the works. Because it his his first initial and last name: E.Ver. The word Never, of course, also has it, just with an additional letter of the alphabet.

Reviews of #Bard154

I have had two very good reviews of my Shakespeare Sonnet Tweets!

The first comes from Edward Devere himself, and ca be seen here.

The second comes from Oxfordian Patrick Prentice and can be read over at Six Degrees of Shakespeare here.


(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and the reviews don’t clue you in, which they should, I wrote a blog post about this project and can be read here.)

Mothers Ask ‘May I’ Too

4 Stars

There was a time in my life when I wanted to climb the corporate latter, at least, the organizational one. I was willing to do this because it meant more money.  Meanwhile my wife spent many of those years as a full-time mother. I say “full-time mother” instead of “stay-at-home mom” because motherhood is a job, whether you enjoy parenting or not. And it requires two shifts a day. When I came home from work during our kids’ early years, my wife was “off duty”.

Fifteen years into the work force, I had no problem “giving up the reins” and let my wife be the one who was working. She was stuck at home, with no real social life, and several attempts at starting something part-time at-home all failed to stick.

Mother May IAnd so when I read Mother May I by Tina Parker, every memory of parenting those newborns and toddlers was brought up. I identified with Parker a lot as a parent.

Parker writes about the fun parts of parenting as well as the stuff parents feel they shouldn’t say aloud about raising small children. Her poems aren’t particularly musical, but that gives room for telling it like it is.

The collection is loosely divided into four parts, the dividers being a poem called “Questionnaire”. It is a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire for young women. The first time it appears, the answers a left blank.


How many times have you been pregnant? ______________________

How many children born alive? ______________________

The second time the answers are filled in


Stillbirths? _____0_______

Miscarriages? _______1______

Finally the poem is a prose poem


I have two daughters. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage…

I love the titles in this collection. They are introductory statements, usually something one of her kids said, such as the poem “When Our Five-Year-Old Asks If There Is More Sky Or Grass”. Sometimes these titles are the poems themselves. It reminds me how poetic young kids are.

Some poems, such as “How to Get Toddlers Into the Car” both have an element of humor that makes me chuckle, but also hurts deep in my heart as I remember how hard the simplest tasks could be. In fact, there are so many poems in this collection that are complete with a 1-2 punch, such as one about a father who is there but is still absent. In this collection Parker is a mother asking “May I” too, because she writes about topics some might consider taboo, such as hurting your child  for the first time. She communicates a struggle some mothers are ashamed of, and in doing so provides an answer to her own question.

My favorite poem in the collection is “Just Like That I Have a Daycare Baby”, which starts out innocent enough

Only she’s not a baby
She’s four but still
Some other woman gets her
Breakfast and lunch and snack
And fixes her hair when the clips fall out…

Soon the poem turns ever so slightly, but painfully, as the mother describes going to work. The turn is right around:

I have time to pour coffee
And put creamer in
I have time to drink it
Sometimes I even make it
I get paid to do this…

Everyone without kids who want to know what parenting is like should buy this collection. And those with kids as well — it is not a difficult book to read; on the contrary, it is a very enjoyable read. The poems about the joys of motherhood made me smile.

Mother May I is published by Sibling Rivalry Press.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, or #Bard154

This year I have been reducing all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets (14-line poems) into quatrains of 140 characters each.  On Monday I tweeted them (for Twitter’s specifications I had to reduce them to 136 characters before publishing them).

I reduced them  using the only reading of the sonnets that makes complete sense to me: both the Baby Tudor Theory and  the Prince Tudor Theory.

Edward Devere, XVII Earl of Oxford
Edward Devere, XVII Earl of Oxford

These theories can be broken down into three big points.

  1. Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford is the author of the works of William Shakespeare.
  2. In an Oedipal nightmare come true, De Vere is the son of Queen Elizabeth (called the Baby Tudor Theory), …
  3. … and together the two of them had a son of their own, Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton (called the Prince Tudor Theory).

I should point out that for those who believe De Vere is Shakespeare, not of all of them believe all three points, some only believe the first. But for me, the sonnets don’t make sense unless you believe in at least the third point, if not the second.

But to believe in all three points means suddenly everything about the works of Shakespeare makes complete and total sense. (I of course am open to other theories where everything makes sense, but at the moment this is it.)

So here it goes, I invite you to read my tweets. The best way to do that is in these three steps.

  1. Click here:
  2. Click the LIVE tab to see all the sonnet tweets
  3. Scroll down to the bottom to start from the first sonnet and move to the last (with the exception of one sonnet). Alternatively, scroll below the first sonnet and start a few tweets before the dedication tweet. Either way, you will need to click “more tweets” until you get to where you want to start.

The Village Trough Needs Your Help!



The farm-to-table restaurant in my new hometown of Berea, KY is the only one that uses local, organic and pastured ingredients. After two years in their current location, owners Ali and Brett along with the other worker-owners were evicted from the building because they wanted to serve (most likely local) alcohol.

(Berea was a dry town as of September 2015, but the voters decided to change that in a special election.)

They have found a building to move into, but they need financial help in order to be able to do it. I know my royalties aren’t much, but it is something. So….


PLEASE consider buying a books and helping out this struggling but vitally important community-based establishment!!!

and help keep the Village Trough from closing its doors permanently

Appalachian Symposium was a great success!

I am not new to Appalachia. I was born in western mountains of Virginia (though my family moved the next day, a story for another time), and I spent my college years and the first two years of married life in western North Carolina. But it is safe to say I know little about the history, culture and issues that Appalachians are faced with.

I received a crash course from attending a writers program. Perfect.

The Appalachian Symposium was conceived and organized by Silas House, someone I had never heard of until I moved into eastern Kentucky. But he is a prominent and important contemporary figure of Appalachian issues. The symposium was held at Berea College, and was completely free.

SIlas House at the Appalachian Symposium
SIlas House 

In fact, I did not know any of the writers who presented by their work, and had only heard of a couple of them before. Now I have a handful of poets and their works I want to get to know.

The Appalachian Symposium was organized like a smaller version of AWP (it has always seemed bizarre to me that a national convention like AWP is attended by a building full of introverts!), with a specific regional focus that bleeds into universal truths about writing.

Indeed, Maurice Manning, the keynote speaker on the second day, questioned where the line is that is drawn between Appalachian writing and not.

I cannot list the entire group of writers that presented, but along with Manning it includes bell hooks (keynote speaker on day one), Denise Gardina, Richard Hague, Silas House, Loyal Jones, Gurney Norman, Frank X. Walker and Crystal Wilkinson

There are some great tweets out there under the #appalachiansymposium hashtag that highlight some great moments of the Appalachian Symposium, so I won’t go into any of that here. But I will end with a note of gratitude both to Silas House for organizing this wonderful and educational convention of writers, as well as to the canon of Appalachian writers throughout the centuries that have enriched the American literary scene as a whole.