Friday, August 10, 2012

Oxford Toppled into the Great Western Divide

"Two great principles divide the world and contend for the mastery, antiquity and the middle ages. These are the two civilizations that have preceded us, religious questions reduce themselves practically to this. This is the great dualism that runs through our society." Lord Acton, 1859. (Quoted in Helgerson.)

I believe the authorship question can be reduced to this as well. Acton's description of the 'ancient-medieval dialectic' contextualizes the suppression of the fame of the Earl of Oxford and the resulting authorship controversy.

Sidney/ Spenser/Harvey/Essex/Jonson/Chapman/Greville - antiquity

Wild/unrestrained, natural/rustic, Gothic Oxford/Shakespeare - Rejected medievalism

A new kind of virtue and Hammer's 'nasty nineties' - Oxford's conservatism was in conflict with the emerging militant Protestant identity of Britain:

Forms of Nationhood, Richard Helgerson

...By semiotic necessity, but also by a quite specific set of historical operations, the assertion of national unity arose from the division. Adapting the American national motto (itself borrowed from Rome in a century of "enlightened" classicism), we might label this process e duobus unum. Out of the divided legacy of antiquity and the middle ages - a division produced deliberately by Italian humanists of the fifteen century as a lever for change - the new unity of the nation-state was understood and made known. In the minds of many who claimed to speak for them, the modern nations of Europe had, for all their differences from both antiquity and the middle ages, to be represented as either ancient or medieval, either Greek or Goth. The authority of the spokesmen themselves, indeed their very identity, was felt to derive from the identity and authority of the cultural pole to which they attached themselves and their country. Over the half millenium that this binary system was in place, the meaning of its two principal terms did not, however, stay fixed. Ancient and medieval functioned rather as floating signifiers, terms that remained opposed to one another though their specific referents repeatedly changed. Erasmus's ancients were not Acton's. Nineteenth-century parliamentary Gothic was not sixteenth-century humanist. And even at any one moment, there could be profound differences concerning not only which term to prefer but the very significance of each. Rome could stand simultaneously for empire and republic; the middle ages, for monarchy and popular resistance to it. But unlike the dialectical opposition between antiquity and the middle ages, differences of this sort often went unperceived, one group developing and understanding of classical and medieval that suited its own interests and practices without noticing that its ancients and its Goths bore little likeness to those of some neighboring group...

In this chapter and the next I will be looking at three particular instances of the ancient-medieval dialectic and its function in the ideological construction of the early modern English nation. Two of these, the two versions of Gothic that are the subject of this chapter, concern poetry. The third, which I discuss in the following chapter, concerns law. Having a distinctly national poetry and a distinctly national legal system was then thought, as it is still thought today, to be fundamental to a nation's cultural sovereignty. Certain rules of verse, certain poetic genres, certain discursive orderings of the law taken wither from Greco-Roman antiquity or the middle ages provided the recognized models of civility and barbarity against which English writings were inevitably measured...

...Poetry thus became a scene of contention, one of the high places that various interests with a stake in the development of an English national culture thought worth commanding.

An Earl Rampant in the Republic of Letters

Out of the divided legacy of antiquity and the middle ages - a division produced deliberately by English humanists and militant Protestants of the sixteenth century as a lever for change - the new unity of the nation-state was understood and made known. (adapted from Helgerson)

English humanists of the sixteenth century would not reproduce existing medieval power structures in their merit-based literary economy. Euphuism and Oxford's 'courtly' lyricism were rejected.



If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whe'er better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O, sure I am, the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

Disproportionate and disordered Droeshout engraving - The form of Shakespeare's 'mind' in character done.

Right vs. Wrong:

Jonson - Timber

{Topic 67}} {{Subject: AFFECTED language}}

De vere argutis. - I do hear them say often some men are not witty, because they are not everywhere witty; than which nothing is more foolish. If an eye or a nose be an excellent part in the face, therefore be all eye or nose! I think the eyebrow, the forehead, the cheek, chin, lip, or any part else are as necessary and natural in the place. But now nothing is good that is natural; RIGHT and NATURAL LANGUAGE seems to have least of the wit in it; that which is writhed and tortured is counted the more exquisite. Cloth of bodkin or tissue must be embroidered; as if no face were fair that were not powdered or painted! no beauty to be had but in wresting and writhing our own tongue! Nothing is fashionable till it be DEFORMED; and this is to write like a gentleman. All must be affected and preposterous as our gallants' clothes, sweet-bags, and night-dressings, in which you would think our men lay in, like LADIES, it is so curious.


In the course of very few years from the late 1570's to the early 1580's, humanist learning and courtly advancement have come to a parting of the ways. English rime follows the lead of the court, while quantitative verse is left to take the path that leads away from power. In these circumstances, the charge of barbarousness loses its force. If acorns are being consumed at curt, they are by that very fact made courteous and civil.
The adoption of riming verse by the court and by courtiers, or at least the close association of one with the other, thus obscured for a while the issue that had been so clear in Ascham. (Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood).

from Ascham, The Scholemaster:

Now when men know the difference and have examples both of the best and of the worst, surely to follow rather the Goths in riming than the Greeks in true versifying were even to eat acorns with swine when we may freely eat wheat bread amongst men.

Helgerson, con't.

Knowledge of historical difference is what, for Ascham, distinguished his moment from all previous moments in English history. And such knowledge brings with it the possibility of choice. Ascham thus presents that active model of self-fashioning to which Spencer, in seeking to have the kingdom of his own language, fits himself - a model based on choice and imitation. What Ascham most despises is the passive acceptance of "time and custom," eating acorns with swine. What he most admires is the "forward diligence," as he calls it, of those who choose to eat wheat bread amongst men, those who make themselves over in the likeness of a pattern of civility superior to what mere barbarous custom affords. (Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood, p. 29)

Jonson, Ode to Himself

“Come, leave the loathed stage,

And the more LOATHESOME AGE;
Where pride and impudence (in fashion knit)
Usurp the chair of wit!
Inditing and arraigning every day
Something they call a play.

Let their fastidious, vaine
Commission of braine
Run on, and rage, sweat, censure, and condemn;
They were not made for thee,—less thou for them.

“Say that thou pour’st them wheat,
And they will acorns eat;
’Twere simple fury, still, thyself to waste
On such as have no taste!
To offer them a surfeit of pure bread,
Whose appetites are dead!

No, give them graines their fill,
Husks, draff, to drink and swill.
If they love lees, and leave the lusty wine,
Envy them not their palate with the swine.

“No doubt some mouldy tale
Like PERICLES, and stale
As the shrieve’s crusts, and misty as his fish-
Scraps, out of every dish
Thrown forth, and rak’t into the common-tub,
May keep up the play-club:
There sweepings do as well
As the best-ordered meale.

For who the relish of these guests will fit,
Needs set them but the almes-basket of wit.
“And much good do’t you then,
Brave plush and velvet men
Can Feed on orts, and safe in your stage-clothes,
Dare quit, upon your oathes,
The stagers, and the stage-wrights too (your peers),
Of larding your large ears
With their foul comic socks,
Wrought upon twenty blocks:
Which, if they’re torn, and turn’d, and patch’d enough,
The gamesters share your guilt, and you their stuff.


"Ascham thus presents that active model of self-fashioning to which Spencer, in seeking to have the kingdom of his own language, fits himself - a model based on choice and imitation." Helgerson

Shakespeare's 'self-fashioning' - unruly form and wild, extravagant language: barbarous deformity represented in the disproportionate Droeshout engraving.
Shakespeare/Clown/Scurra/Voltaire's Drunken Savage/'Gilles':

_Mirth Making_, Chris Holcomb

In his Ethics, Aristotle suggests that *changes in stylistic and substantive predilections indicate advances in civilization*. While enumerating the differences between the jesting of a BUFFOON(note - SCURRA) and a witty gentleman, Aristotle compares each character type to Old and New Comedy, respectively: "The difference (between a buffoon and a gentleman) may be seen by comparing the old and modern comedies; the earlier dramatists found their fun in obscenity, the modern prefer innuendo, which marks a great advance in decorum; (4.8.6). This comparison suggest that smutty humor is less civilized than the more refined humor delivered through innuendo. (footnote pp. 199-200)


William Cartwright (follower of Ben Jonson):

...Shakespeare to thee was DULL, whose best jest lyes
I'th Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes;
Old fashion'd wit, which walkt from town to town
In turn'd Hose, which our fathers call'd the CLOWN;
Whose wit our nice times would obsceannesse call,
And which made Bawdry passe for Comicall:
Nature was all his Art, thy veine was FREE
As his, but without his SCURILITY;


Jonson, Discoveries

De Poetica. - We have spoken sufficiently of oratory, let us now make a diversion to poetry. Poetry, in the primogeniture, had many PECCANT HUMOURS, and IS MADE TO HAVE MORE NOW, through the levity and inconstancy of men' s judgments. Whereas, indeed, it is the most prevailing eloquence, and of the most exalted caract. Now the discredits and disgraces are many it hath received through men' s study of depravation or calumny; their practice being to give it diminution of credit, by lessening the professor' s estimation, and making THE AGE afraid of their liberty; and THE AGE is grown so tender of her fame, as she calls all writings aspersions.

That is the state word, the PHRASE OF COURT (placentia college), which some call PARASITES PLACE, the INN OF IGNORANCE.


Soul of an Ignorant Age:



IN so thicke, and darke an IGNORANCE, as now almost couers the AGE, I craue leaue to stand neare your Light: and, by that, to be read. Posterity may pay your Benefit the Honour, and Thanks; when it shall know, that you dare, in these JIG-GIVEN times, to countenance a Legitimate Poƫme. I must call it so, against all noise of Opinion: from whose crude, and airy Reports, I appeale, to that great and singular Faculty of Iudgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate Truth from Error. It is the first (of this RACE) that euer I dedicated to any Person, and had I not thought it the best, it should haue beene taught a lesse ambition. Now, it approacheth your Censure chearefully, and with the same assurance, that Innocency would appeare before a Magistrate.

Your Lo. most faithfull Honorer. Ben. Ionson.

Conduct unbecoming and unworthy of an Earl:
Cicero on DECORUM

“it is inseparable from moral goodness; for what is proper is morally
right and what is morally right is proper.” (De Officiis)


Jonson and Cartwright 'Ruled' Shakespeare's Quill:

From To the Deceased Author of these Poems (William Cartwright)

by Jasper Mayne

...And as thy Wit was like a Spring, so all
The soft streams of it we may Chrystall call:
No cloud of Fancie, no mysterious stroke,
No Verse like those which antient Sybils spoke;
No Oracle of Language, to amaze
The Reader with a dark, or Midnight Phrase,
Stands in thy Writings, which are all pure Day,
A cleer, bright Sunchine, and the mist away.
That which Thou wrot'st was sense, and that sense good,
Things not first written, and then understood:

Or if sometimes thy Fancy soar'd so high
As to seem lost to the unlearned Eye,
'Twas but like generous Falcons, when high flown,
Which mount to make the Quarrey more their own.

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)


Droeshout - Depicts Shakespeare's 'BAD Form' - anticlassical disproportionate figure (small Latin, less Greek)


Jonathan Gibson, _Sidney's Arcadias and Elizabethan Courtiership_,

Oxford University Press

"One aspect of the Alencon dispute that, rather surprisingly, has been neglected in discussions of Sidney is the relationship between his own work and the writings of his court rival Edward De Vere, seventeenth earl of Oxford. The _Arcadias_ can plausibly be read as using their opposition to a specifically 'Oxfordian' literary aesthetic to trigger a more general meditation on the problems of Elizabethan courtiership.

As Steven W. May has shown, French-influenced 'new lyricism', closely associated with Oxford, was the dominant poetic form at the Elizabethan court at the time of the composition of the old _Arcadia_. Early Elizabethan court poetry had been largely religious and didactic but during the 1570's Oxford pioneered a revival of courtly Petrarchan lyric in the tradition of Wyatt and Surrey. I have argued elsewhere that this was connected with Oxford's advocacy of the French match, forming a key element in what H.R. Woudhuysen has called the 'wholesale importation of French culture and manners to England' which occurred in the wake of the marriage negotiations. The arrival of 'new lyricism' meant that the Petrarchan language of love became part of the lingua franca of English court life. The complicated overlap at the Elizabethan court between the language of early modern patronage negotiations and the language of Petrarchanism has been much discussed. The blurring of the two was greatly heightened - and arguably set in place, in its specifically Elizabethan manifestation - by Oxford's literary programme.


Catholic Oxford joins forces with Protestant Burleigh (Politiques?) after St. Bartholomew Day's massacre. Oxford and Burleigh cooperate in maintaining cordial relations with Catholic monarchy of France and preventing the spread of sectarian violence to England?

Letter Oxford to Burleigh - re: Bartholomew's Day Massacre

...I would to God your Lordship would let me understand some of your news (which here doth ring doubtfully in the ears of every man) of the murder of the Admiral of France and a number of noblemen and worthy gentlemen, and such as greatly have in their lifetimes honoured the Queen's Majesty our mistress, on whose tragedies we have a number of French Aeneases in this city that tells of their own overthrows with tears falling from their eyes, a piteous thing to hear, but a cruel and far more grievous thing we must deem it then to see. All rumours here are but confused of those troops that are escaped from Paris and Rouen, where Monsieur hath also been and, like a vesper Sicilianus, as they say, that cruelty spreads over all France, whereof your Lordship is better advertised than we are here. And sith the world is so full of treasons and vile instruments daily to attempt new and unlooked for things, good my Lord, I shall affectiously and heartily desire your Lordship to be careful both of yourself and of her Majesty, that your friends may long enjoy you, and you them. I speak because I am not ignorant what practices have been made against your person lately by Mather and later, as I understand, by foreign practices, if it be true. And think, if the Admiral in France was an eyesore or beam in the eyes of the papists, that the Lord Treasurer of England is a block and a cross-bar in their way, whose remove they will never stick to attempt, seeing they have prevailed so well in others'.

This estate hath depended on you a great while, as all the world doth judge; and now all men's eyes, not being occupied any more on these lost lords are, as it were, on a sudden bent and fixed on you, as a singular hope and pillar whereto the religion hath to lean. And blame me not, though I am bolder with your Lordship at this present than my custom is, for I am one that count myself a follower of yours now in all fortunes, and what shall hap to you, I count it hap to myself or, at the least, I will make myself a voluntary partaker of it.

Thus, my Lord, I humbly desire your Lordship to pardon my youth, but to take in good part my zeal and affection towards your Lordship, as on whom I have builded my foundation either to stand or fall. And good my Lord, think I do not this presumptuously, as to advise you that am but to take advice of your Lordship, but to admonish you as one with whom I would spend my blood and life, so much you have made me yours. And I do protest, there is nothing more desired of me than so to be taken and accounted of you. Thus, with my hearty commendations and your daughter's, we leave you to the custody of Almighty God. Your Lordship's affectioned son-in-law.
Edward Oxenford

*To the right honourable and his singular good Lord, the Lord Treasurer of England, give these.

[=04] BL Lansdowne 14/84, ff. 185-6: Oxford to Lord Burghley, 22 September 1572

[=05] BL Lansdowne 14/85, ff. 186-7: Oxford to Lord Burghley, 31 October 1572


Diarmid MacCulloch writes of the 'extraordinary sequence of major crises and decisions across the Continent that, within no more than half a decade around 1570, set the courses of northern and southern Europe in opposite directions. The dynamic of these events made it possible for the partition of Europe to become permanent in the mid-seventeenth century. They culminated in...the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, which not only showed how unstable and divided that once-powerful kingdom had become, but also reinforced the feeling in the mind of both Catholic and Protestant that their enemies were bent on eliminating them altogether. (quoted in Stillman, Philip Sidney and the Poetics of Renaissance Cosmopolitanism, p.1)

Shakespeare - Positive depictions of Continental Catholics.


Billy Budd, Melville

The drum-beat dissolved the multitude, distributing most of them along the batteries of the two covered gun decks. There, as wont, the guns’ crews stood by their respective cannon erect and silent. In due course the First Officer, sword under arm and standing in his place on the quarter-deck, formally received the successive reports of the sworded Lieutenants commanding the sections of batteries below; the last of which reports being made, the summed report he delivered with the customary salute to the Commander. All this occupied time, which in the present case, was the object of beating to quarters at an hour prior to the customary one. That such variance from usage was authorized by an officer like Captain [Edward Fairfax]Vere, a martinet as some deemed him, was evidence of the necessity for unusual action implied in what he deemed to be temporarily the mood of his men. "With mankind," he would say, "forms, measured forms are everything; and that is the import couched in the story of Orpheus with his lyre spell-binding the wild denizens of the wood." And this he once applied to the disruption of forms going on across the Channel and the consequences thereof.


(Harvey prints his poem Speculum Tuscanismi disclaiming it as 'a bolde Satyricall Libell lately devised at the Instauce of an old friend.' It mocks Sidney's ENEMY the Earl of Oxford (See Katherine Duncan-Jones, Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet, London, 1991, pp.166-7)

'Tell me in good sooth, doth it not too evidently appeare, that this English Poet [Oxford] wanted but a good PATTERNE before his eyes, as it might be some delicate, and choyce elegant Poesie of good M. Sidneys, or M. Dyers (ouer very Castor, & Pollux for such and many greater matters) when this trimme geere was in hatching: Much like some Gentlewooman, I coulde name in England, who by all Phisick and Physiognomie too, might as well have brought forth all goodly faire children, as they have now some YLFAVOURED and DEFORMED, had they at the tyme of their Conception, had in sight, the amiable and gallant beautifull Pictures of ADONIS, Cupido, Ganymedes, or the like, which no doubt would have wrought such deepe impression in their fantasies, and imaginations, as their children, and perhappes their Childrens children to, myght have thanked them for, as long as they shall have Tongues in their heades."

Sidney: The Critical Heritage By Martin Garrett (pp.92-93)

Shakespeare, V&A dedication:
But if the first heire of my inuention proue DEFORMED, I shall be sorie it had so noble a god-father : and neuer after eare so barren a land, for feare it yeeld me still so bad a HARVEST,

Sidney and Dyer's Areopagus - mighty opposites to Oxford's ylfavoured and deformed 'literary program'.

Helgerson, (con't)

Power and its institutional embodiment are as central to the Spenser-Harvey correspondence as they were to The Schoolmaster. Spencer's two letters are dated from Westminster and from Leicester House, and they speak mysteriously of "his excellent lordship" and, no less mysteriously, "of my late being with her majesty". Ascham's project of English self-making was conceived in just such a setting, near the center of power, and Spenser lets us know that the project is being carried on there by this new generation. The quantitative movement chooses for itself the language appropriate to this setting and to its own absolutist ambition, the language of power. Its two leading advocates, Sidney and Dyer, have, Spenser tells us, "proclaimed in their Areopagus a general surceasing and silence of bold rimers and also of the very best too, instead whereof they have, by authority of their whole senate, prescribed certain LAWS and RULES of quantities of English syllables for English verse." No one has known quite known what to make of the Areopagus. Was it a formal society, an informal group of friends, or merely a name jokingly created by Spenser in this letter for some still less structured association? Without more evidence, we will never know. But it is clear that the word is Greek and the action peremptory. In both repsects it conforms to Ascham's model of self-fashioning.
A few bits of this [quantitative] verse still make good reading. Others have become, as Nashe said of Stanyhurst's lumbering hexameters, "famously absurd." Most have been quietly forgotten. But if we measure success in other terms, this very active movement can be considered extraordinarily successful. It succeeded, though not quite single-handedly, in putting English poetry high on the list of projects to be completed in the course of England's self-making. It, furthermore, succeeded in directing attention to technical questions of prosody that would have to be answered were English poetry itself to succeed. (It thius makes sense that Sidney and Spenser, the two main contributors to the development of that poetry and particularly to its metrical development, were also deeply involved in the quantitative movement.) And it succeeded in serving as a principal focal point for the discussion of national self-fashioning itself. This last is, of course, my main concern here. The rivalry between quantitative meter and rime was caught up in a much larger rivalry between two ways of being - between active self-making on the human-Greek-wheat-bread model and passive acceptance of time and custom on the swine-Goth-acorn model. ( Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood, pp. 30-31)

Sidney-Oxford Rivalry Theory:

The rivalry between quantitative meter and rime was caught up in a much larger rivalry between two ways of being - between active self-making on the human-Greek-wheat-bread model [the heroic interpretation of Sidney's postition] and passive acceptance of time and custom on the swine-Goth-acorn model [Contemptuous interpretation of Oxford's conservative stance].


...Its two leading advocates, Sidney and Dyer, have, Spenser tells us, "proclaimed in their Areopagus a general surceasing and silence of bold rimers and also of the very best too, instead whereof they have, by authority of their whole senate, prescribed certain LAWS and RULES of quantities of English syllables for English verse." (Helgerson)

Sidney and Dyer's classically inspired project was continued by Jonson and Cartwright, who ultimately 'ruled' or restrained  'Gothic' Oxford/Shakespeare's quill.

Jasper Mayne to William Cartwright:

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)


Searching for a Graver Labour:

Michael Drayton


.....Gascoine and Churchyard after them againe
In the beginning of Eliza's raine,
Accoumpted were great Meterers many a day,
But not inspired with brave fier, had they
Liv'd but a little longer, they had seene,
Their works before them to have buried beene.
 .....GRAVE morrall Spencer after these came on
Then whom I am perswaded there was none
Since the blind Bard his Iliads up did make,
Fitter a taske like that to undertake,
To set downe boldly, bravely to invent,
In all high knowledge, surely excellent.
.....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 Greek or 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 Similies,
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.


Shakespeare, thou hadst as smooth a Comicke vaine,
Fitting the socke, and in thy NATURALL braine, [note: Clown/Unreformed Acorn-eater]
As strong conception, and as Cleere a RAGE,
As any one that trafiqu'd with the stage.



Sonnet II

Let dainty wits crie on the Sisters nine,
That, BRAVELY MASKT, their fancies may be told;
Or, Pindars apes, flaunt they in PHRASES FINE,
Enam'ling with pied flowers their thoughts of gold;
Or else let them in statlier glorie shine,
Ennobling new-found tropes with problemes old;
Or with strange similes enrich each line,
Of herbes or beasts which Inde or Affrick hold.
For me, in sooth, no Muse but one I know,
Phrases and problems from my reach do grow;
And STRANGE THINGS cost too deare for my poor sprites.

How then? euen thus: in Stellaes face I reed
What Loue and Beautie be; then all my deed
But copying is, what in her Nature writes.

Castigating Oxfordian extravagance:


For now they cast SUGAR and spice uppon everie dish that is served to
the table: like those Indians, not content to weare eare-rings at the
fit and naturall place of the eares, but they will thrust Jewels
through their nose and lippes, because they will be SURE TO BE FINE.


Let dainty wits crie on the SISTERS NINE,
That, bravely masked, their fancies may be told;
Or, Pindars apes, flaunt they in PHRASES FINE,

Phrases Fine:

As Epius Stolo said that the MUSES would speak with Plautus' tongue if
they would speak Latin, so I say that the MUSES would speak with
Shakespeare's FINE-filed PHRASE, if they would speak English. (Meres)

Sonnet 123
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old;
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wondering at the present nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow and this shall ever be;
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.


Oct 15, 2005 3:09 pm - informal post to Robert Brazil's 'Elizaforum'.

Deformed Knaves of Fashion - RB1b

Regardless of the authorship of the Sidney preface, can one doubt that the Venus and Adonis dedication was all about taking the **** out of the Sidney-Pembrokes while having a jab at Southampton, who has entered the Sidney-Leicester-Essex continuum ... in effect choosing the wrong camp? The Tudor Prince explanation of the 1593 dedication has always been one of the weakest legs of their footstool, but we can see now - by direct comparison - that the 1st work ascribed to the NAME Shakespeare was a social-political opportunity to slam a faction at court and its newest rising star. Not to declare a secret kinship or kingship.

Note also that all the 1590 remarks about dressing up -- from "stayed" to "feathers" precedes Groatsworth by two years. All these literary pieces are like visible wave-crests in a sea. We can finally see that entire sea. It is the Oxford-Sidney rivalry. All praise to Nicole for birthing this paradigm shift over the last few years. So far I am the only declared disciple ... yet, of course, we are already in minor disagreement about some important points like the role of Jonson, his allegiances and motivations. But we both agree that Venus and Adonis, as a poem and as a publication, was a reaction to the earlier posthumous publications of Sidney (Arcadia and Astrophel and Stella). The dedication piece to Venus and Adonis is a direct response to the "Sidney" letter in front of Arcadia v1.

Thus we have the actual circumstances of the origin of the Shakespeare name. It was about politics and letters and the social pecking order. And a grand farcical "sex joke" at the same time. Both poems have a theme of the dangers of follies of sexuality. The name is a pun to make Freud blush. This "rude brand" was only grudgingly applied to the theater projects 5 years later, and then, only on a limited basis. The full deformation, in 1623, was on the 30th anniversary of Venus and Adonis, when the mask had been created for a very limited purpose. I believe the name William Shakespeare was never intended to extend beyond those two poetry volumes. But shyte happened.

In my decades at this I have chased down every angle and of all those myriad paths, two in particular have developed instant traction and led to real evidence.

1. The paper trail left by the printers, publishers and Stationers

2. Analysis of Sidney vs. Oxford and its various echoes... Leicester vs. Oxford ... Protestant vs. Catholic ... French Match vs. Local Match or No Match, Aeropagus vs. Euphuist, Harvey vs. Nashe, Puritan/proto-Republican vs. Feudalism and Divine right.

Are you interested in the future of Oxfordian studies? This is it. We could even have a group, the Sidney Oxford Society ... the SOS ... whooops, scratch that!

thanks again to ND (and BM Ward) for getting the ball rolling,
Robert Brazil