Francis pens a sonnet to his namesake William Shakespeare, whose name will live on after Francis has been forgotten
One of his projects at this time was completion of In Happy Memory of Elizabeth, his appraisal of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Francis was able to distance himself from his personal feelings and recognise that she had been a great Queen for England. This was also a period in which he studied Roman history, and was inspired to write the plays Julius Caesar and Anthony and Cleopatra.
Francis thought occasionally of the irony of his situation, writing timeless literary pieces that he knew would live long after he was gone, but in another’s name, while his own name would likely be forgotten. He put his thoughts into a sonnet to the Stratfordian, who would get all the credit for his works:
Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten;
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live — such virtue hath my pen —
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men (1)
(1) Shake-Speare sonnet 81.