WILLIAM HALL

This is more or less what the dedication to Shake-speares Sonnets looks like:

TO.THE.ONLIE.BEGETTER.OF.
THESE.INSVING.SONNETS.
Mr.W.H.  ALL.HAPPINESSE.
AND.THAT.ETERNITIE.
PROMISED.
BY.
OVR.EVER-LIVING.POET.
WISHETH.
THE.WELL-WISHING.
ADVENTVRER.IN.
SETTING.
FORTH.
                      T.  T.

Some people have in the past suggested that the "Mr.W.H." referred to was Shakespeare himself. A misprint for "W.Sh." has been suggested, (1) and one theory said that it was an abbreviation of "William Himself". An interesting additional slant on the whole thing, however, was provided by Phillips and Keatman, in their The Shakespeare Conspiracy. (2) They pointed out that, in a pamphlet by Christopher Marlowe's friend, Thomas Hariot, printed only the year before by the Sonnets printer, George Eld, Hariot had apparently referred to part of a code used by Galileo, in which dots were taken to mean spaces, and spaces indicated that no space was intended. If we apply this to the dedication, here is what we get.

TO THE ONLIE BEGETTER OF
THESE INSVING SONNETS
Mr W HALL HAPPINESSE
AND THAT ETERNITIE
PROMISED
BY
OVR EVER-LIVING POET
WISHETH
THE WELL-WISHING
ADVENTVRER IN
SETTING
FORTH
                      TT

So who could this "Mr. W. Hall" have been? According to Phillips and Keatman (although I have not confirmed any of their information), there was a government agent by the name of William Hall in operation at that time. They suggest, in fact, that this was a cover-name for William Shakespeare, who, their theory goes, was also a secret agent. They may indeed be on the right track, but I doubt that they and I would agree as to just who this 'William Shakespeare' was. Their suggestion that 'William Hall' was named after Shakespeare's son-in-law collapses when we note that John Hall did not arrive in Stratford until 1600, long after William Hall first appeared on the scene.

Here is what they tell us about William Hall. Some interesting points can be made about these items; but only if the writer of Shakespeare's Sonnets was not, in fact, William Shakespeare of Stratford, but Christopher Marlowe.

17 June 1592: In the Canterbury Archives, a 'Will Hall' paid for services to Anthony Munday. The timescale I propose has Marlowe back in England in 1592 after spending quite a lot of time (as William) in France. It looks as if the services to Anthony Munday (presumably for the Archishop) took place in Canterbury, although this is not certain. We should recall, however, that Canterbury was Marlowe's home town, and that - having been in Cambridge, London, and France - he would not have had much contact with his family over the past few years. He was certainly in Canterbury in September 1592.

28 August 1593: A 'William Hall' was, according to the Hatfield records, paid by Lord Burghley for delivering a letter to Edward Kelly in Prague. This was exactly three months after Christopher Marlowe's 'death', which I suggest was faked largely at the behest of Burghley. A convenient way of getting him out of the country?

19 March 1596: Two messengers called 'Hall and Wayte' paid by the Chamber Treasurer for carrying messages from the Netherlands to Sir Robert Cecil. A passport was issued on 20 February 1595/6 for Le Doux to travel through the Low Countries. This was renewed on 10 March, suggesting that it had been used for some other purpose. This would coincide perfectly with the payment made to 'Hall and Wayte' for just such a trip.

2 October 1601: 'Willm Halle' returned with intelligence from Denmark. According to John Michell, in his Who Wrote Shakespeare? (p.221), a lot of Danish 'flavour' seems to have been added some time between the publication of the first and second quartos of Hamlet, indicating a familiarity with Denmark in general, and Elsinore in particular. The date of William Hall's return from Denmark could therefore have hardly been better timed. (Many thanks to HLAS newsgroup contributor 'Rob' for this information).

29 June 1603: Robert Cecil ordered the Chamber treasurer to pay 20 to 'Will Halle'. Marlowe had in the past been an agent for the Cecils and had been closely associated with Raleigh and his circle. On the very same day in 1603 that Cecil paid Hall, according to Phillips and Keatman, he also wrote to Lord Henry Howard, stating

that 'Ralegh's man' informed him that Ralegh would be his own undoing through 'some untimely interest'. In other words, Cecil had someone close to Ralegh informing him of some scheme in which Ralegh was involved.
This is, of course, after the execution of the Earl of Essex, and the death of Anthony Bacon too, suggesting a possible return to the Cecil fold (if he ever left it in the first place?)


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NOTES AND REFERENCES (WILLIAM HALL)

1 In particular, see Don Foster's essay Mr. W. H., R.I.P., in PMLA (Periodicals of the Modern Language Association), Vol.102 no.1, Jan 1987.

2 Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, The Shakespeare Conspiracy (1994)


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