7.2.7. Tournament and Sweet Speech, 1581

7.2.7. The Tournament on January 22, 1581, and The Sweet Speech.

According to the testimonies of both Henry Howard and Charles Arundell; Oxford made his accusation against Lord Howard after December 16, 1580 and before December 25, 1580, probably on 19-21, December.
On 6th January 1581, the fair-natured Callophisus sent out a challenge to take part in a tournament on 22nd January 1581. Oxford wrote his answer a week later. Together with Lord Frederick Windsor and Lord Philip Sidney, he led the 'defenders'.
Callophisus, who described himself as being a supporter and equally a prisoner of "the most perfect creature", was none other than the twenty three year old Philip Howard, Earl of Surrey (1557-1595), the son of the Duke of Norfolk who had been executed for treason, and a nephew of the deceitful Lord Henry Howard (1540-1614). With this tournament, Philip Howard wished to celebrate his advancement to "Earl of Arundel and Surrey" in style.


Callophisus, being brought by the greatest perfection in another to the smallest liberty in himself, having the foundation of his choice so firm as it cannot decay, and finding the place of his imprisonment so strong as he cannot escape: will be at the Tilts end upon the two and twenty day of January next ensuing, at one of the Clock in the afternoon, there to defend and maintain against all men whosoever, for six courses a piece, the whole six, or any of the six Articles which follow, whereunto he challengeth all, that either Honour any Lady, whom they may brag of for any worth: or serve a Mistress, which hath reason to boast of her self for any beauty, by these first three Articles.

1 The first, that his Mistress is for Beauty of her face, and the Grace of her person, the most perfect creature, that ever either the eye of man hath beheld, the Arte of Nature hath framed, or the compass of the earth hath enjoyed.
2 The second, that it is as impossible for any other whosoever, to abide the beams of his Mistress' look, as for the Clouds to endure the shining and appearing of the Sun, and that the one doth not sooner vanish at the showing of the Sun, then the other will suddenly fade at the presence of his Mistress,
3 The third, that the perfections of his Mistress, are in number so infinite, in quality so excellent, and in operation so effectual, as she by the help of them, and they by the direction of her, do make more men without liberty, and more bodies without hearts, then any, or all the women in the world besides.
And because Callophisus doubteth that the taking upon him a quarrel which is so just on his side, will make that he shall have none to defend the contrary against him, and that the worthiness of his mistress will steal away the Servants of other Ladies, he will with one only assistant, challenge all that either have opinion in the constancy of their love, or assurance in the greatness of their affection, by these other three Articles.
4 The first, that Callophisus for his faith will yield to none, and for his loyalty doth think himself above all, and in these two respects pronounceth himself most worthy to be accepted into favor with his Mistress· or to receive grace at the hands of the fairest.
5 The second, that the good will and affection of Callophisus to his Mistress, is for impression so deep, for continuance so lasting, and for passion so extreme, as it is impossible for any other to carry so perfect love, or to conceive the like affection.
6 The third, that those adventures and hazards, which cannot but be most sour, to any other for the pleasing of any Lady (whom they Honour) are most sweet unto him, for the contentment of the Mistress whom he serveth.

And if they neither will contend with him for the superiority of his Mistress in worthiness, nor for the prerogative of himself in affection, having not their judgement veiled with so partial an humor as may lead them to resist of manifest and open truth, and doubting a bad success in a wrong opinion, because Veritas vincet omnia, then will he, & his said assistant, with all such, run six courses, to join with them in honouring of his Mistress, which hath no equal, and expressing of his affection which cannot be matched.

Whereas this challenge of Jousts, was signified by way of device before her Majesty, on Twelfth night last past, to have been performed the fifteenth day of January, her Majesty's pleasure is for divers considerations, that it be deferred until the two and twenty of the same month, and then to be held at Westminster, the accustomed place.[1]

Callophisus describes himself as being a “prisoner” of the Queen, “finding the place of his imprisonment so strong as he cannot escape”. The tragic aftermath to the whole concern is that Philip Howard converted to the Catholic faith in 1584. In 1585 he was arraigned before the Star Chamber, and imprisoned in the Tower. He died a prisoner in 1595. The Catholic church canonised him in 1970.

First of all a reply was sent to Calllophisus' challenge from a certain White Knight, a name used by the twenty one year old Lord Fredrick Windsor (1559-1585), a nephew of the Earl of Oxford.[2] Pretending not to know the challenger, Windsor emphasises the fact that Callophisus does not name the lady for whom he fights. Amazingly, the White Knight polemicises against the "concealed lady" or "unknown saint"- as if it were not already clear that the lady in question is the Queen. In other words, he deliberately pretends not to understand the challenger.

To Callophisus whosoever or wheresoever.
Callophisus; think it not strange to find divers in this our Court or at the least some one among so many that makes profession of arms, that both dares and will oppose himself against so proud a Chalenge as of late under the title of thy name hath been proclaimed. Unto us is Callophisus a mere stranger and his mistress likewise, whose name he hath concealed, altogether unknown and therefore do we neither esteem that excellency as due which to her he doth attribute nor allow that merit and worthiness which to himself he doth arrogate. Of knights have we great store, who both of their loyalty and prowess have made too good proof, to admire a stranger of whom we have had no trial, and ladies likewise of such rare vertue and excellent beauty do we serve as that we highly disdain to worship an unknown saint. Receive therefore from me, the White Knight by name, this answer that at the tilt tourney and barriers, if thou be so disposed, I will encounter thee to the uttermost, and there make good upon thy person that my soveraigne mistress that royal virgin, that peerless Princess, that Phoenix and Paragon of the world, whom with all devotion I do serve, love, honour and obey in all perfections, as far surpasseth the concealed ladie as the clerest day doth the darkest night or the fairest flower the foulest weed ...

Subscribed by him who in arms will be ready to avouch that which his pen hath here written / this xvth of January 1580 [=81]

Thy adversarye the
White Knight.[3]

The reply to this ruse was sent by The Red Knight, a friend of Callophisus. The Red Knight was the tournament name of the thirty year old Sir William Drury of Hawstead who later served as Sheriff of Suffolk. He said that the White Knight's reply to Callophisus' challenge was "disorderly" and that the White Knight was an inexperienced newcomer who had not yet earned the privilege of calling himself the Queen's supporter. As a declared follower of Callophisus he would fight on the side of the challenger, and he knew better how to honour the Queen in combat.

The answer to the white knight.
Whereas Callophisus hath made an honorable challenge and some other (perhaps not well experimented in arms) hath made a disorderly answer unto it, being as yet not come to the cares of Callophisus: and I being a professed friend unto him, be it known unto thee (thou white knight) whatsoever thou art, that I, the red knight, will answer and justify upon the all that Callophisus hath proclaimed, at the dale appointed from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof, at the three challenges, and the course of the field withall which thou hast forgotten. And that as neither thyself; nor any other in respect of her royal and matchless excellency, is worthy either to bear the name of her servant, or to kiss the ground of her steps whom both I and Callophisus, honour more then thou doest and serve better then thou canst, and not only obey in all degrees, as much as is possible for thyself but also be ready to perform that for her sake to show that we profess, that thou art not able (thought thou hadst thy will) to discharge. So in respect of thine own unworthiness I will justify Callophisus and myself to be so far above thee for merit and loyalty as thou shalt feel the reward of a wrong quarrel if thou wilt perform what thou hast offered. And as thou canst not speak so much in the commendation of these worthy knights which this land possesseth, as both he and I will acknowledge and confess to be true, so doth both he and I think thee inferior to them all. This I have undertaken to answer, because Callophisus must be better occupied in discharging of that which he hath most honorably undertaken, and to the performance whereof he is in honour bound. And therefore as either thou regardest thy credit or desirest to wine honour, fail not the performance of thy offer.

Thy adversary the
Red Knight.

As if that were not enough, two other answers to Callophisus' challenge arrive, one of them from The Blue Knight and the other from The Knight of the Tree of the Sun. There have a couple of mistaken interpretations as to the identity of The Blue Knight, but the person who we are looking for is young Philip Sidney, the nephew of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The Blue Knight's explanation is somewhat complicated but the gist of it is that he considers Callophisus' challenge to be lacking in style.

It is true that men as they are divers so have they humours and fancies, differing one from another, out of which they do judge diversely of one and the same thing, as may appear among other things by the taking of a challenge lately proclaimed by one Callophisus in the honor of a lady, who for her rare and perfect gifts deserveth far more praise then he or tongue of man can give her. And to the show of his faith and dutiful affection, for which he deserveth asmuch as man may challenge, which his good mind someone stirred rather to envy then to follow, hath to deprave him of his due desert under the name of the White Knight as disorderly challenged a challenger, his [Callophisus'] Challenge depending as without desert would arrogate to himself a note of greater loyalty, where in troth he cometh as far behind and can Compare no more with him than the wolf with the faithfull spaniel or as the rammage buzzard with the pilgrim falcon.

In this quarrell I the blue knight do proffer and desire to try myself against him or any his friend or assistant, at the Course of the field and Tourney on Chandelmas day next by two of the Clock in the afternoon before the gates of her Court that by remembrance of her name onely stirreth up all desires to vertue and by the perfections of her beauty and good graces subdueth the stoutest heart of her beholders.

The Conditions and order I proffer to be as followeth. First myself to come armed at all points, and my horse furnished as to the field. With me I will bring my patron with a pledge of a Jewell worth an hundred pounds. The like I require of mine answerer to the end that whoso hurteth horse with point of spear or sword shall lose the honour and his pledge.

The Blue Knight places great emphasis on the fact that no horses are to be injured,
referring to his own name Philhippos: the horsesʼ friend.

Secondly I will bring in iiij staves such as I list whereof my answerer shall make choice of two and leave the other to myself. The like liberty and for the like number I give to him, who shall leave the first choice of two to me, the other to himself; which staves being broken or the one of us unhorsed. I will thirdly bring in two swords, whereof my answerer shall make his choice, the like liberty shall he have reserving the choice to me, the other for myself, with these we are to tourney at the passage, or joyning as either of us list without stay, or let by advantage or misfortune of either but at the pleasure of him that hath the advantage. And when it is brought to that advantage by either that the other is in manifest danger and wanteth honorable means of defence, it shall be lawful then for the patrons to take up the matter, and to deliver to the victor the pledge which either have laid in, which he is to present to whom he thinketh best worthy. Fourthly if the answerer list to add any other Conditions to these when he maketh his answere which must be within four days, his Conditions shall be accepted whatsoever may be with honour offered. And lastly because I will not go back from what I have proffered you shall know me among the defendants in the answering of this next Challenge this figure here following.

Fighting in the ranks of the defenders, The Blue Knight will bear the following emblem: A tree with a broken hour glass on one of its branches and a laurel wreath on another.

The Blewe Knight.
(Only the signature is Sidney's.)

In a final step The Knight of the Tree of the Sun also accepted Philip Howard's challenge and headed the ranks of the defenders. The knight with this strange name is Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. He knows perfectly well who Callophisus is, but he pretends not to do so as to comply with the rhetoric of enmity.[4]

Callophisus as it seems more covetous of glorie than able to merit, hath put his challenge to the print, but not his virtue to the proof. Yet to shadow his imperfection he hath covered himself under the wings of the most perfectest, for whom each would adventure: but against whom none will lift his lance. But whereas he vaunts himself to honor her above all, to love more, and serve more than any besides, this is so far beyond his compass, as the white knight is above him in zeal and worthiness, who albeit to me he be unknown, I praise his attempt wishing he had chosen a fitter day, wherein he might have had full means to have taught Callophisus his fault, and the worthiest wight have showed his desire to honor her whom he serveth in loyaltie.

Wherefore as a friend to his mind and any other that in honor of that rare mistress which is accomplished with virtue's perfection and everie good quality which may enrich a mortal creature with immortal praise, being of none other to be spoken or understood but of her self, I mean to try my truth with no less valor than I have desire, not minding to disorder so noble a presence, but rather to entertain the same with a longer abode by diversity and change of arms, and to join with this worthie White Knight, if the next day may be given to the sword, as the former challenge is to the lance: not wandering from the rules of arms, neither wronging the rest of the defendants of which it is to be thought manie will make proof of their loyalties, as pleasure to their ladie. And as for Callophisus I know not whether the Red knight having added a little to his challenge, hath not taken away a great part of his honor. But whereas either of them seem absolute preferers of themselves before all others in loyaltie, love, and worthiness, I must say and do avow, I am of a far contrarie opinion, and think either of them to be as unfit to usurp the title of her servants, as she worthie to be mistress of the world; as void of loyaltie, merit, valor and love, as she is complete with wisdom, grace, beautie and eloquence. Their works be as far less than their words, as their praise is short of her worth. And in this am I to assist the white knight unknown to me against the red knight in all points of arms that either the place will suffer, time permit, or Companie allow, and for the rest of his bragging words they may supply the want of his works. They nothing appertain to me who presume nothing, of myself, in respect of mine assurance in my mistress's virtue, and excellencie upon whose face their eyes are unworthie to look.

The Knight of the Tree of the Sun
Affronter to the Red

In his Booke of Honor and Armes (1590), the officer of arms William
Segar (c.1554–1633) remembers the tournament of January 22, 1581.

An honourable Challenge was likewise brought before her Maiestie, by the Earl of Arundel, calling himselfe Callophisus, who with his assistant Sir William Drury, challenged all commers. Anno 1580 [81]. The Defenders were,

The Earle of  Oxford, the Lord Windsor, Phillip Sidney, Edward Norris, Henry Knowles, Robert Knowles, Fulke Grivell, Thomas Knevet, Thomas Kellaway, Rafe Bowes, George Goring, George Gifford, Anthony Cooke, Henrie Bronkard, Edward Denny, Richard Ward, Thomas Parrot. The prize was given to the Earle of Oxford.[5]

The Queen sat in a pavilion on the northern side of the forecourt to Westminster Palace. The demonstratively expensive tents of the contestants were erected on the southern side, the tribunes for the spectators were situated on the long sides. In the report, Oxfordʼs tent was described as being "a statelie Tent of Orange tawny Taffeta" with a laurel wreath with gilded leaves over the entrance. As the Earl took his place before his tree, a page kneeled before the Queen and requested her permission to relate a story.

Axiochus. A most excellent dialogue, written in Greeke by Plato the phylosopher: concerning the shortnesse and vncertainty of this life, with the contrary ends of the good and wicked. / Translated out of Greeke by Edw. Spenser. Heereto is annexed a sweet speech or oration spoken at the tryumphe at White-hall before her Maiestie, by the page to the right noble Earle of Oxenforde.

At London, Printed for Cuthbert Burbie, and are to be sold at the middle shop in the Poultry, under S. Mildreds Church., Anno. 1592[6]


BY THE TILT stood a statelie Tent of Orange tawny Taffeta, curiously embroydered with Silver, & pendants on the Pinnacles very slightly to behold. From forth this Tent came the noble Earl of Oxenford in rich gilt Armour, and sat down under a great high Bay-tree, the whole stock, branches and leaves whereof were all gilded over, that nothing but Gold could be discerned. By the Tree stood twelve tilting staves, all which likewise were gilded clean over. After a solemn sound of most sweet Musique, he mounted on his Courser, verie richly caparisoned, when his page ascending the stairs where her Highness stood in the window, delivered to her by speech this Oration following.

THIS KNIGHT (most fair and fortunate Princess) living of a long time in a Grove, where every graft being green, he thought every root to be precious, found at the last as great diversity of troubles as of Trees: the Oak to be so stubborn that nothing could cause it to bend: the Reed so shaking, that every blast made it to bow; the Juniper sweet, but too low for succour; the Cypress fair, but without fruit; the Walnut tree to be as unwholesome to lie under, as the bud of the Fig-tree unpleasant to taste; the Tree that bore the best fruit, to be fullest of Caterpillars, and all to be infected with worms; the Ash for Ravens to breed; the Elm to build: the Elder to be full of pith and no perfection, and all Trees that were not fertile, to be fit for fuel, and they that were fruitful, but for the time to please the fancy. Which trying, he forsook the wood, and lived a while in the plain Champion: where, how he was tormented, it were too long to tell, but let this suffice, that he was troubled, when every Moat fell in his eye in the day, and every Ant disquieted him in the night: where, if the wind blew, he had nothing to shield him but head and shoulders, if the Sun blazed, he could find the shadow of nothing but himself, when seeing himself so destitute of help, he became desperate of hope.

Thus wandering a weary way, he espied at the last a Tree so beautiful, that his eyes were dazzled with the brightness, which as he was going unto, he met by good fortune a Pilgrim or Hermit, he knew not well, who being apparelled as though he were to travel into all Countries, but so aged as though he were to live continually in a Cave. Of this old Sire he demanded what Tree it was, who taking this Knight by the hand, began in these words both to utter the name and nature of the Tree.

This Tree, fair Knight is called the Tree of the Sun, whose nature is always to stand alone, not suffering a companion, being it self without comparison: of which kind, there are no more in the earth than Suns in the Element. The world can hold but one Phoenix, one Alexander, one Sun Tree, in top contrarie to all Trees: it is strongest, & so statelie to behold, that the more other shrubs shrink for duty, the higher it exalteth it self in Majestie.

For as the clear beams of the Sun, cause all the stars to lose their light, so the brightness of this golden Tree, eclipseth the commendation of all other Plants. The leaves of pure Gold, the bark no worse, the buds pearls, the body Chrisocolla, the Sap Nectar, the root so noble as it springeth from two Turkeies  (Turquoises), both so perfect, as neither can stain the other, each contending once for superiority, and now both constrained to be equals. Vestas bird sitteth in the midst, whereat Cupid is ever drawing, but dares not shoot, being amazed at the princely and perfect Majesty.[7]

The shadows hath as strange properties as contrarieties, cooling those that be hot with a temperate calm, and heating those that be cold with a moderate warmth, not unlike that Sun whereof it taketh the name, which melteth Wax, and hardeneth Clay, or pure fire, which causeth the gold to shine, and the straw to smother, or sweet perfumes, which feedeth the Bee, and killeth the Beetle.

No poison commeth near it, nor any vermin that hath a sting. Who so goeth about to lop it, lanceth himself, and the Sun will not shine on that creature that casteth a false eye on that Tree, no wind can so much as wag a leaf, it springeth in spite of Autumnus and continueth all the year as it were Ver.

If, Sir Knight you demand what fruit it beareth, I answer, such, as the elder it is, the younger it seemeth, always ripe, yet ever green. Virtue, Sir Knight, more nourishing to honest thoughts, than the beauty delightful to amorous eyes; where the Graces are as thick in virtue, as the Grapes are on the Vine.

This fruit fatteneth, but never feeds, wherewith this Tree is so loaden, as you cannot touch that place which virtue hath not tempered. If you enquire whether any grafts may be gotten, it were as much as to crave slips of the Sun, or a Mould to cast a new Moon. To conclude, such a Tree as it is, as he hath longest known it, can sooner marvel at it than describe it, for the further he wadeth in the praise, the shorter he cometh of the perfection.

This old man having ended, seeming to want words to express such worthiness, he went to his home, and the Knight to his Sun Tree, where kissing the ground with humilitie, the princely tree seemed with favour to bid him welcome. But the more he gazed on the beauty, the less able he was to endure the brightness, like unto those that thinking with a steadfast eye to behold the sun brings a dark dazzling over their sight.

At the last, resting under the shadow, he felt such content, as nothing could be more comfortable. The days he spent in virtuous delights, the night slipped away in golden Dreams; he was never annoyed with venomous enemies, nor disquieted with idle cogitations.

Insomuch, that finding all felicity in that shade, and all security in that Sun: he made a solemn vow, to incorporate his heart into that Tree, and engraft his thoughts upon those virtues, Swearing, that as there is but one Sun to shine over it, one root to give life unto it, one top to maintain Majesty: so there should be but one Knight, either to live or die for the defence thereof.

Where-upon, he swore himself only to be the Knight of the Tree of the Sun, whose life should end before his loyaltie.

Thus cloyed with content, he fell into a sweet slumber, whose smiling countenance showed him void of all care. But his eyes were scarce closed when he seemed to see dychers undermining the Tree behind him, that because suspecting the Knight to give the diggers aid, might have punished him in her way. But failing of their pretence, and seeing every blowe [8] they struck to light upon their own brains, they threatened him by violence, whom they could not match in virtue.

But he clasping the Tree, as the only Anchor of his trust, they could not so much as move him from his cause, whom they determined to martyr without choler. Whereupon, they made a challenge to win the Tree by right, and to make it good by Arms. At which saying the Knight being glad to have his truth tried with his valor, for joy awakened.

And now (most virtuous and excellent Princess) seeing such tumults towards for his Tree, such an Honourable presence to judge, such worthy Knights to Joust: I cannot tell whether his perplexitie or his pleasure be the greater. But this he will avouch at all assays himself to be the most loyal Knight of the Sun-tree, which who so gain-sayeth he is here pressed, either to make him recant it before he run, or repent it after. Offering rather to die upon the points of a thousand Lances, than to yield a jot in constant loyaltie.


The speech being ended, with great honour he ran, and valiantly brake all the twelve staves. And after the finishing of the sports: both the rich Baytree, and the beautiful Tent, were by the standersby, torn and rent in more pieces than can be numbered.

Oxford's poetical second glorified the Queen in the allegory of the Sun Tree. The Knight who discovered this tree after wandering aimlessly for such a long time, took refuge under her branches, awestruck in the presence of her regal perfection. "For his own tiltyard nom de guerre," Mark Anderson writes, "de Vere borrowed from the Norse legends of a great golden tree in the center of the universe –Yggdrasil- representing the sun."[10]

The noble knight is not without enemies. They try to dig below the roots of his tree while he sleeps but in his dreams he clasps on to the Sun Tree as the "only Anchor of his trust". From this moment on he knows that the quarrel can only be settled in combat.
In the bat of an eye, the dream becomes reality, his enemies stand before him and he wishes to drive fear into their hearts. With this poetical legitimacy he goes into combat- and breaks all the twelve staves.
And who is the author of this euphuistic romance?
The style points toward John Lyly (1553-1606), the poetic Earl's close friend and private secretary. Thereupon, we observe a significant similarity between the "Tree of the Sun" in the Sweet Speech and in the "tree Salurus" in Lyly's comedy Sapho and Phao (1582).[11] Furthermore, the dream of "Knight of the Tree of the Sun" shows a marked similarity to that of the sleeping Edmymion in Lyly's comedy Endymion (1584).
Nevertheless there are some reasons why we could attribute the story (or its declamation) to Oxford's younger employee- Anthony Munday (1560-1633).
1. The Earl of Oxford, for the twenty year old author, was both employer and role model, to whom he had given the name of honour "Alexis" in The Mirrour of Mutabilitie (1579). The Earl is omnipresent in Munday's Zelauto (1580): the foreword is addressed "To the Right Honourable, his singular good Lord and Master".
2. Munday had just turned 20 in January 1581; so playing the part of the page who kneeled before Queen Elizabeth and recited the Sweet Speech would have been no problem.
3. The young author had already shown himself to be an opponent to Catholicism which would have added more gravity to his appearance before the Queen. This tournament was not least a symbol for Oxford's fight against the Howards who had "dug" below the roots of the Sun Tree. – "But he clasping the Tree, as the only Anchor of his trust, they could not so much as move him from his cause, whom they determined to martyr without choler. Whereupon, they made a challenge to win the Tree by right, and to make it good Arms."
4. In the same year (1592) in which the Sweet Speech appeared, Cuthbert Burbie published Munday's Gerileo of England.

There is another important matter which must be noted.

John Lyly's comedy Endymion, The Man in the Moone (written 1584) has a similar motive to the Sweet Speech – and also deals in many aspects with the hardships of the Earl.
A young man by the name of Endymion is attracted by the sensual charms of Tellus. Even though the nobler side of his being is in love with Cynthia, the epitome of purity and perfection. Tellus, whose name comes from the goddess of fertility (to whom the Romans sacrificed a pregnant cow each year) [12], feels herself outshone by Cynthia. In a fit of jealousy and angry, Tellus takes Endymion to task.

TELLUS: Take heed Endymion, lest like the wrestler in Olympia that, striving to lift an impossible weight, catched an incurable strain, thou by fixing thy thoughts above thy reach fall into a disease without all recure. But I see thou art now in love with Cynthia.

ENDYMION: No Tellus, thou knowest that the stately cedar, whose top reacheth unto the clouds, never boweth his head to the shrubs that grow in the valley; nor ivy, that climbeth up by the elm can ever get hold of the beams of the sun. Cynthia I honor in all humility, whom none ought or dare adventure to love, whose affections are immortal and virtues infinite. Suffer me, therefore, to gaze on the moon, at whom, were it not for thyself, I would die with wondering. (Endymion, II/1)

Tellus, apparently representative for Anne Vavasour, the woman who caused Oxford so much trouble when she bore him a son- Tellus, unmoved by Endymion's moonstruck avowals swears to take revenge. The cunning woman engages the services of a witch called Dipsas, who puts Endymion into a deep sleep from which he can only be awakened by a chaste kiss from Cynthia. In Cynthia we recognize the virginal version of Selene, the Greek moon goddess, who enchants her Endymion. But first and foremost Cynthia is an allegoric representation of Queen Elizabeth.
I.e. the Knight who slept below the "Tree of the Sun" has now become Endymion, waiting to be released from the witch's spell by a kiss from Cynthia. And just like The Knight of the Tree of the Sun, Endymion dreams of Cynthia's enemies – of the wolves of ingratitude and the arrows of malicious envy.

ENDYMION. I beheld many wolves barking at thee, Cynthia, who, having ground their teeth to bite, did with striving bleed themselves to death. There might I see Ingratitude with an hundred eyes, gazing for benefits, and with a thousand teeth gnawing on the bowels wherein she was bred. Treachery stood all clothed in white, with a smiling countenance but both her hands bathed in blood. Envy, with a pale and meager face, whose body was so lean that one might tell all her bones, and whose garment was so tattered that it was easy to number every thread, stood shooting at stars. whose darts fell down again on her own face. There might I behold drones, or beetles, I know not how to term them, creeping under the wings of a princely eagle, who, being carried into her nest, sought there to suck that vein that would have killed the eagle. I mused that things so base should attempt a fact so barbarous or durst imagine a thing so bloody.

(Endymion, V/1)

Only Queen Cynthia can grant Endymion release from his guilt with a kiss and awake him from his deep trance. His affair with Tellus-Vavasour was just a fleeting indiscretion. (That it happened at the same time as the denunciation of his political enemies was an unfortunate coincidence.)
Cynthia forgives Endymion and releases Tellus from the castle in which she is imprisoned under the supervision of Corsites.
Anne Vavasour had also been imprisoned, and in the Tower she may have been the in the custody of Sir Henry Lee, who had apartments there. Certainly she later became Lee's mistress. – In the Ditchley Entertainment in 1592 Sir Henry Lee refers to a long sleep with which the Fairy Queen had punished him for not guarding the pictures left in his care.[13]
G. K. Hunter (John Lyly, The Humanist as Courtier, 1962) wanted to brush aside the case of Oxford:
"Mrs Bennet supposes[14] the 'picture of Endimion' which Tellus weaves in her imprisonment, and which she is allowed to keep at the end of the play (V/3) is the child born to Anne Vavasour. But Oxford denied paternity, and it would have been indiscret of Lyly to suggest that the child was his. Again, the play makes nothing of Anne Vavasour's promiscuity; Tellus loves only Endimion; she answers Corsitesʼ love with deceit, and accepts him at the end only because Cynthia commands it. The play does not, in fact, come anywhere near a competent defence of Oxford, and this must make us doubtful that the play was ever intended for this purpose."
But G. K. Hunter makes three serious mistakes: 1) Oxford never denied paternity; the child bore his name. 2) Anne Vavasour had never been promiscuous. Her only indiscretion was to give birth to a child of Oxford. 3) The play was not written in 1587-88, but in 1584. (See 3.4.1 Lyly, Endymion.)
We conclude: When John Lyly, as Oxfordʼs protégé, performed Endymion on Candlemas 1588, it would have been impossible for Cynthia to suppress the memory of Oxford's offence, ban and subsequent reinstatement.




[1] Only one copy of Callophisusʼ challenge is still in existence: http://luna.folger.edu/…

[2] Lord Frederick Windsor (1559-1585). The son of Oxford's half-sister, Katherine de Vere, and Edward, 3rd Lord Windsor.

[3] The White Knight. The suspicion that Oxford helped his young friend Windsor with the composition of the challenge cannot be casually dismissed. The speeches of the challengers and the defenders are available in the British Library, MS Lansdowne 99, 259 ff. – The printed versions are available in: E.K. Chambers and W. W. Greg (eds.), Dramatic Records from the Lansdowne Manuscripts, Malone Society Collections, vol.i, pt. ii, 1908, pp.181-7.

[4] as to comply with the rhetoric of enmity. Oxford's cousin, Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey (1557-1595), was the son of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, who had been beheaded for treason in 1572; he was also the nephew of Lord Henry Howard (1540-1614) with whom Oxford had severed all ties. After the execution of Thomas Howard, Edward de Vere had befriended Philip Howard in a paternal sort of way. Oxford and Philip Howard, (along with Lord Frederick Windsor) appeared in a "Devyse" for Queen Elizabeth, at court, on the shrovetide of 1579. (See 7.2.5 Oxford and France.)

[5] The prize was given to the Earle of Oxford. - College of Arms MS M4, preliminary piece no.6, lists Oxford, Windsor and Sidney as the first three tilters.

[6] Axiochus … Translated out of the Greek by Edw. Spenser. The 'Sweet Speech' came into print as an addition to the first book that Cuthbert Burbie entered for license on the Stationers' Register, May 1, 1592. – The printing error (or knowingly deception) "Edw. Spenser", when it should have read "Edm. Spenser", is worthy of note.

[7] Vestaʼs bird sitteth in the midst, whereat Cupid is ever drawing, but dares not shoot, being amazed at the princely and perfect Majesty. In an allusion to Elizabeth's virginity the author of the speech has constructed the Queen as a princely bird. – See A Midsummer Night's Dream, II/1:

OBERON. That very time I saw, but thou couldst not, Flying between the cold moon and the earth Cupid, all arm'd; a certain aim he took At a fair vestal, throned by the west, And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow, As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts; But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon; And the imperial vot'ress passed on, In maiden meditation, fancy-free.

[8] punished him in her way. But failing of their pretence, and seeing every blowe. There is only one copy of Sweet Speech in existence and from this copy a piece of the last page is missing. Alan H. Nelson filled in the missing words without informing the reader of the problems of his emendation. He made his version up without setting any restrictions to his prejudice. E.g.; "the Tree behind him, that because suspecting the Knight to give the diggers aid, might have punished him in her prison." The word "prison" is too long and therefore obviously wrong. Nelson's method of deliberately twisting historical facts to make them fit to his bizarre theory could accurately be described as falsification.

were scarce closed when he seemed to see dy-
chers undermining the Tree behind him, that
because suspecting the Knight to give the
diggers aid, might have punished him in her
way. But failing of their pretence, and seeing
every blowe they struck to light upon their
own brains, they threatened him by violence,

[9] FINIS. There followed a speech by Callophisus. An extract is transcribed in a MS collection of entertainments associated with Sir Henry Lee: British Library, Add. Ms. 41 499A, fol.6r.

[10] Yggdrasil- representing the sun. Mark Anderson. Shakespeare by Another Name, The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare, 2005, p. 170). - Wikipedia: "Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is center to the cosmos and considered very holy. The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble at their things. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the dragon Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór. - In the spring Hvergelmir are so many snakes along with Níðhöggr 'that no tongue can enumerate them.'"

[11] the "tree Salurus" in Lyly's comedy Sapho and Phao. See John Lyly, Sappho and Phao (I/2):

TRACHINUS: Aye, but this is the court of Sapho, nature's miracle, which resembleth the tree Salurus, whose root is fastened upon knotted steel, & in whose top bud leaves of pure gold.

PANDION: Yet hath Salurus blasts and water boughs, worms and caterpillars.

TRACHINUS: The virtue of the tree is not the cause but the easterly wind, which is thought commonly to bring cankers and rottenness.

[12] Tellus, whose name comes from the goddess of fertility. In ancient Roman myth, Tellus Mater is a goddess of the earth. She is associated with Ceres in rituals pertaining to agricultural fertility. She also was involved in the ceremonies attending the birth of a child.

[13] In the Ditchley Entertainment in 1592 Sir Henry Lee refers to a long sleep with which the Fairy Queen had punished him for not guarding the pictures left in his care.

In the play Sir Henry Lee (alias the enchanted Knight) failed in his duty, because (in his own words)

… lo, unhappy I was overtaken,
By fortune forced, a stranger lady's thrall,
Whom when I saw, all former care forsaken,
To find her out I lost myself and all,
Through which neglect of duty ʼgan my fall.

(John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. III (1823), p. 201.)

[14] Mrs Bennet supposes. Josephine Waters Bennett, Oxford and Endimion, Publications of the Modern Language Association (PMLA), Vol. 57, (1942), pp. 354-69.