I believe that the picture of Oxford that emerged in Alan Nelson's book 'Monstrous Adversary' can be understood as 'fossilized invective' as described by Amy Richlin in The Garden of Priapus
"...There are myriad examples of Roman political or politicized invective in all forms, but they are mostly preserved by later biographers and historians who are quite obviously, sometimes consciously, repeating what had become a kind of party line. In other words, this invective is fossilized, kept alive by political motives that have long outlived the protagonists of the stories." (p.86)
(and, of course, new uses have been found for this 'fossilized' invective as Oxford's ill-fame has been revived during the Shakespeare Authorship wars.)
If 'Shakespeare' exists as a testament to the author's worth, then his fame appears to have eclipsed all others despite the efforts of his censurers. However, the resulting fame is maddeningly paradoxical. Through his own labour Shakespeare/Oxford established himself at the centre of British culture and at the same time Oxford/Shakespeare was shaped by his political opposition as the disruptive 'Other'. An ignoble, preposterous and promiscuous 'Other' whose indiscriminate and unregulated energies required containment.
It seems possible that a great man was 'hurled headlong' (flaming?) from the apex of Elizabethan court culture and came to rest in a Warwickshire dunghill.
Similar patterns of events have occurred as individuals found themselves on the wrong side of history. Many lie nameless and unremembered, or vilified and scorned. What is extraordinary in Oxford's case is the momentous fact of his insuppressible Book.
...I beseech your Lordship consider how God hath placed you upon a high stage in the eyes of all men, as a guide, patterne, insample and leader unto others. If your vertues be uncounterfayted, if your religion should be sound and pure, if your doings be according to true godlines: you shal be a stay to your cuntrie, a comforte too good men, a bridle to evil men, a joy to your friends, a corzie to your enemies, and an encreace of honor to your owne house. But if you should become eyther a counterfayt Protestant, or a perverse Papist, or a colde and careless newter (which God forbid) the harme could not be expressed which you should do to your native Cuntrie. For (as Cicero no lesse truely than wisely affirmeth and as the sorowfull dooings of our present dayes do too much certeinly avouch) greate men hurt not the common weale so much by beeing evil in respect of themselves, as by drawing others unto evel by their evil example...
What merit lived in me, that you should love
After my death,--dear love, forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove.
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O! lest your true love may seem false in this
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth.
from: A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, Ed. William Dominik and Jon Hall
Invective, according to the definition provided by Koster (1980: 38-9, 354) , is a literary genre whose goal is to denigrate publicly a known individual against the background of ethical societal preconceptions, to the end of isolating him or her from the community. In the Latin rhetorical tradition, vitupemtio (“invective”), together with its opposite laus (“praise”), belongs to the principal topics that make up the genus demonstrativum , or epideictic oratory. A brief discussion of this genus can be found in Cicero's youthful work De Inventione (2.177-8) and in the almost contemporary treatise Rhetorica ad Herennium (3.10-15). The latter presents a more extensive treatment of the three broad categories which can be used to shame the chosen target: (1) external circumstances, which include birth, education, wealth, power, achievements, and citizenship; (2) physical attributes such as looks, health, speed, strength, and weakness; (3) qualities of character, or virtutes animi , such as wisdom, justice, courage, and self-restraint (for a brief list of such loci see Cic. Part. Or . 82). This kind of verbal assault, conducted through an open recounting of the target's faults and organized according to these loci , was often employed in judicial and deliberative speeches with the aim of turning the audience against its target. Invective was thus an ingredient in forensic and deliberative oratory and not an end in itself (Powell 2006).
In the strict sense only speeches delivered, or supposedly delivered, as a direct attack against an individual should be considered invective...However, if we are prepared to broaden our definition, speeches whose first aim was not to attack the opponent directly, but to discredit him or her in order to achieve a specific persuasive goal, might also be considered invective.
According to the conventions of Roman political life, invective was regarded as a legitimate weapon for pursuing one's political enemies...[t]he rules of engagement also permitted a degree of direct abuse that we would not countenance today.
The orator's function then was not only to manipulate the audience's values and prejudices, but also, by claiming "to have the inside-line on those values', to take up the role of their representative (Freudenburg 1997:4). This created alternative ethical modes. If the manuscript tradition had had a different fortune so as to preserve only the speeches by, say, Clodius or Catiline we would not doubt have quite a different picture. As Corbeill (1996:4) notes: 'Among men, rhetoric as taught and practiced further defines the narrow body of persons who constitute the elite: by demonstrating that an opponent behaves contrary to the well-being of the state, the orator can isolate that opponent as an individual who has no place in society.' The point then becomes: what is the well-being of the state? Who retains the right to establish its content and nature? The orator, whoever he is, is one part of the answer. The other, however, is the audience.
Invective would have been effective only when the audience (whether senate, popular assembly or judicial court) embraced the picture as described for it by the speaker. The moral description of specific acts constituted an essential element in winning the audience's approval. This rhetorical device, referred to by Quintilian as distinctio (Inst. 9.3.65), involved casting a particular action in a moral light different from that claimed by one's opponent (see, e.g., Rhet. Her. 4.35 and Skinner 1996:) If the speaker succeeds in convincing his audience of this new moral description, he has to some extent also succeeded in modifying the social perceptions of that behaviour. Given the recent scholarly trend toward studying the social prejudices that underpin invective, a further way forward perhaps is the analysis of how (and how far) this rhetorical manipulation succeeded in altering the values of Roman society.
(Jonson, Timber )
Decipimur specie. - There is a greater reverence had of things remote or strange to us than of much better if they be nearer and fall under our sense. Men, and almost all sorts of creatures, have their reputation by distance. Rivers, the farther they run, and more from their spring, the broader they are, and greater. And where our original is known, we are less the confident; among strangers we trust fortune. Yet a man may live as renowned at home, in his own country, or a private village, as in the whole world. For it is VIRTUE that gives glory; that will endenizen a man everywhere. It is only that can naturalise him. A NATIVE, if he be vicious, deserves to be a stranger, and cast out of the commonwealth as an alien.
...Neither am I (for my part) so much in love with this life, nor believe so little in a better to come, as to complain of God for taking him [Sidney], and such like exorbitant worthyness from us: fit (as it were by an Ostracisme) to be divided, and not incorporated with our corruptions: yet for the sincere affection I bear to my Prince, and Country, my prayer to God is, that this Worth, and Way may not fatally be buried with him; in respect, that both before his time, and since, experience hath published the usuall discipline of greatnes to have been tender of it self onely; making honour a triumph, or rather trophy of desire, set up in the eyes of Mankind, either to be worshiped as Idols, or else as Rebels to perish under her glorious oppressions. Notwithstanding, when the pride of flesh, and power of favour shall cease in these by death, or disgrace; what then hath time to register, or fame to publish in these great mens names, that will not be offensive, or infectious to others? What Pen without blotting can write the story of their deeds? Or what Herald blaze their Arms without a blemish? And as for their counsels and projects, when they come once to light, shall they not live as noysome, and loathsomely above ground, as their Authors carkasses lie in the grave? So as the return of such greatnes to the world, and themselves, can be but private reproach, publique ill example, and a fatall scorn to the Government they live in. Sir Philip Sidney is none of this number; for the greatness which he affected was built upon true Worth; esteeming Fame more than Riches, and Noble actions far above Nobility it self.
IDLENESS was understood to be the first shaft that 'Cupide shooteth into the hot liver of a heedlesse lover', so in desiring to give in to idleness the prince is only proving true to type. Distaff Hercules was the conventional image for just such a condition of effeminate idleness induced by passionate love. The distaff itself was an old symbol of idleness, and Sidney would have read in Amyot's Plutarch:
...that men given to idle luxury are like Hercules 'au palais royal de la royne de Lydie Omphale, vestu d'une cotte de demoiselle, se laissant souffletter & tresser aux filles & femmes de la Royne'.
'WIL you handle the spindle with Hercules, when you should SHAKE the SPEARE with Achilles?" asks a character in Lyly's Campaspe. Barnaby Rich states that lascivious women have made 'valiant men effeminate, as Hercules'. And Robert Burton uses 'Herculean Love' as an uncomplimentary epithet for passionate love. Sidney's own contempt for distaff Hercules is clear from the Defence of Poesie:
So in Hercules, painted with his great beard, and furious countenance, in a womans attire, spinning, at Omphales commaundement, it breedes both delight and laughter; for the representing of so straunge a power in Love, procures delight, and the scornefulness of the action, stirreth laughter. (iii.
dedicated to WILLIAM HERBERT: Jan 1594 (?)
"A few, to be sure, were observed to murmur, and to envy him so great preferment; but they were men without worth or virtue, who considered the public welfare a matter of indifference- fitter, in truth, to hold a DISTAFF and CARD WOOL AMONG SERVANT GIRLS than at any time to be considered as RIVALS by Sidney. For no one ever wished ill to the honor of the Sidney's except him who wished ill to the commonwealth; no one ever for forsook Philip except him whom the hope that he might at some time be honourable had also forsaken; and no one ever injured him except him for whom virtue and piety had no love. He was never so incensed, however, by the wrongs of malignant or slanderous men but that at the slightest sign of penitence the heat of his disturbed spirit would die down, and he would bury all past offenses under a kind of everlasting OBLIVION. (p.82 Nobilis (The Noble Man), Moffett)
Men/Vir vs. Parasites:
He was (indeed) honest, and of
an open, and free nature: had an excellent
fancy; brave notions, and gentle expressions:
wherein he flowed with that facility, that
sometime it was necessary he should be
STOP'D: sufflaminandus erat; as Augustus said
of Haterius. His wit was in his own power;
would the RULE of it had been so too."
For thou to Nature had'st joyn'd Art, and skill.
In Thee BEN JOHNSON still HELD SHAKESPEARE'S QUILL:
A QUILL, RUL'D by sharp Judgement, and such Laws,
As a well studied Mind, and Reason draws.
Thy Lamp was cherish'd with suppolied of Oyle,
Fetch'd from the Romane and the Graecian soyle. (snip)
...Blest life of Authors, unto whom we owe
Those that we have, and those that we want too:
Th'art all so good, that reading makes thee worse,
And to have writ so well's thine onely curse.
Secure then of thy merit, thou didst hate
That servile base dependance upon fate:
Successe thou ne'r thoughtst vertue, nor that fit,
Which chance, and TH'AGES FASHION DID MAKE HIT;
Excluding those from life in after-time,
Who into Po'try first brought luck and rime:
Who thought the peoples breath good ayre: sty'ld name
What was but noise; and getting Briefes for fame
Gathered the many's suffrages, and thence
Made commendation a benevolence:
THY thoughts were their owne Lawrell, and did win
That best applause of being crown'd within..
Poets and Poesie.
by Michael Drayton
The noble Sidney, with this last arose,
That Heroe for numbers, and for Prose.
That throughly pac'd our language as to show,
The plenteous English hand in hand might goe
With Greeke and Latine, and did first reduce
Our tongue from Lillies writing then in use;
Talking of Stones, Stars, Plants, of fishes, Flyes,
Playing with words, and idle Similes,
As th'English, APES and very ZANIES be
Of every thing, that they doe heare and see,
So IMITATING his ridiculous tricks,
They spake and writ, all like meere lunatiques.
Vanity above all: villainy next her, stateliness Empress
No man but minion, stout, lout, plain, swain, quoth a Lording:
No words but valorous, no works but womanish only.
For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in show,
In deed most frivolous, not a look but Tuscanish always.
His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamy smirking,
With forefinger kiss, and brave embrace to the footward.
Large bellied Cod-pieced doublet, uncod-pieced half hose,
Straight to the dock like a shirt, and close to the britch like a diveling.
A little Apish flat couched fast to the pate like an oyster,
French camarick ruffs, deep with a whiteness starched to the purpose.
Every one A per se A, his terms and braveries in print,
Delicate in speech, quaint in array: conceited in all points,
In Courtly guiles a passing singular odd man...
His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamy smirking,
With forefinger kiss, and brave embrace to the footward.
Compounds of wisdom, wit, prowess, bounty, behavior,
All gallant virtues, all qualities of body and soul.
O thrice ten hundred thousand times blessed and happy,
Blessed and happy travail, Travailer most blessed and happy.
"Tell me in good sooth, doth it not too evidently appear
that this English poet wanted but a good pattern before his eyes,
as it might be some delicate and choice elegant Poesy
of good Master Sidney's or Master Dyer's
(our very Castor and Pollux for such and many greater matters)
when this trim gear was in the matching?"
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost which is so deem'd
Not by our feeling but by others' seeing:
For why should others false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.
To the Honour'd------Countess of ------ Jonson
THe Wisdom Madam of your private Life,
Where with this while you live a widowed Wife,
And the *RIGHT WAYS* you take unto the RIGHT*,
To conquer Rumour, and triumph on Spight;
Not only shunning by your act, to do
Ought that is ill, but the suspicion too,
Is of so brave Example, as he were
No Friend to Vertue, could be silent here.
The rather when the Vices of the Time
Are grown so Fruitful, and false Pleasures climb
By all oblique Degrees, that killing height
From whence they fall, cast down with their own
The mistress of man’s life, grave History,
Raising the world to good and evil fame,
Doth vindicate it to eternity.
Wise Providence would so : that nor the good
Might be defrauded, nor the great secured,
But both might know their ways were understood,
When vice alike in time with virtue dured :
Which makes that, lighted by the beamy hand
Of Truth, that searcheth the most hidden springs,
And guided by Experience, whose straight wand
Doth mete, whose line doth sound the depth of things ;
She cheerfully supporteth what she rears,
Assisted by no strengths but are her own,
Some note of which each varied pillar bears,
By which, as proper titles, she is known
Time's witness, herald of Antiquity,
The light of Truth, and life of Memory.