Monday, October 22, 2012

The Star-y Pointing Pyramid

"Hamlet," Protestantism, and the Mourning of Contingency: Not to Be (review)

Phebe Jensen

Hamlet has sometimes been critically interpreted as a modern man struggling against the strictures of the past, a character who represents the rise of Protestant (or secular) individualism from the ashes of Catholicism, a prince whose story demonstrates the potential—and potential pitfalls—facing the human intellect once released from the restraints of medieval superstition. That narrative, implicitly supported by the teleological assumptions of Whig historiography, is turned on its head by John E. Curran Jr.'s study. In this book, it is Catholicism, not Protestantism, that represents "human and cosmic potentialities" (202). Hamlet is said to be "a Catholic . . . caught in a strictly Protestant world" (5) who wants to live by the "hopeful, Catholic idea of being" (19) but must, in Act 5, accept his imprisonment within the limiting strictures of "predestinarian Protestantism" (5). The play is ultimately a lament for "what has been lost with the fall of Catholicism".


The phrase 'the teleological assumptions of Whig historiography' has been running through my head the last few weeks. It seems to describe the mechanism that has conflated a Catholic Earl and the militant Protestant Prince Hamlet.


Inverted History:

Oxford's fame subsumed by the classically-inspired militant Protestant ideology - a way of life that was embraced by his own son and heir. In his place, a 'Protestant' image of Shakespeare, crafted over time by the 'teleological assumptions of Whig historiography' has come to dominate Shakespeare and authorship studies. A decidedly Protestant England 'reverse-engineered' a Protestant Shakespeare.

The Significance of Milton's 'Star-y pointing Pyramid':

On Shakespeare. 1630

WHat needs my Shakespear for his honour'd Bones,
The labour of an age in piled Stones,
Or that his hallow'd reliques should be hid
Under a Star-ypointing PYRAMID?
What need'st thou such weak witnes of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thy self a live-long Monument.
For whilst to th' shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easie numbers flow, and that each heart [ 10 ]
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalu'd Book,
Those Delphick lines with deep impression took,
Then thou our fancy of it self bereaving,
Dost make us Marble with too much conceaving;
And so Sepulcher'd in such pomp dost lie, [ 15 ]
That Kings for such a Tomb would wish to die.

(Milton - Republican - pomp and circumstance part of the 'Court-fucus' that the King and his courtiers painted themselves with in order to deceive others and conceal their own political and moral illegitimacy.)


Webster and Cervantes, by F. M. Todd The Modern Language Review © 1956

...Yet there is a passage in the 1623 quarto [Duchess of Malfi] which could not have been in the play as acted in 1614. In, V.v, 95 Bosola says to the Cardinal:

I do glory
That thou, which stood'st like a huge Piramid
Begun upon a large, and ample base,
Shalt end in a little point a kind of nothing.

This is quite plainly an echo from chapter VI of the second part of Don Quixote, where Quixote is describing to his niece the various types of pedigree. The first category contains those who have risen from nothing, the second those who have always been great; then he goes on:

'Others who although they had great beginnings end in a point like a pyramid, having diminished and destroyed their beginning until it ends in nothing like the point of a pyramid, which as compared with its base or seat is nothing.'

On the next page in the same chapter he gives examples

'Of those who began great and ended in a point.' and 'All these families and lordships have ended in a point and nothing.'

The similarities seem to be too numerous and too close to be merely accidental. The pyramid was often enough used during the seventeenth century as an illustration of diminution, although its use by both Webster and Cervantes as an illustration of decay or decline is rather specialized. Moreover this is not simply a case of the use of the one image. Not only is Webster's pyramid in Cervantes, but also its base, its 'beginnings', its point, and the similarity between this point and nothing. Both writers are using the pyramid to describe the course of human life, although Webster is talking of one man's fall, Cervantes of a family's.

******************************   Shelton translation Don Quixote:

Others, that though they had great beginnings, yet they end pointed like a Pyramis, having lessened and annihilated their beginning, till it ends in nothing... Thousand of examples there bee of such, as began in greatnesse, and lessened towards their end...All these Lordships ended, pointed, and came to nought.

******************************   In 1743, the 9th Earl of Pembroke was Henry Herbert, a fine scholar noted for his artistic and literary tastes. His father was also the grandson of Philip Herbert, husband of Susan de Vere, one of the Incomparable Brethren to whom Shakespeare's first folio was dedicated. It was Henry Herbert who commissioned an exact replica of Peter Scheemakers' statue of Shakespeare, which only two years before had been acquired for Westminster Abbey. This replicated statue is precise in every detail except one. The one exception is that the Abbey's Shakespeare is pointing to a scroll on which has been written lines taken from The Tempest (Act iv: sc 1) –

The Cloud-capp'd Towers, / The Gorgeous Palaces / The Solemn

Temples, / The Great Globe itself / Yea, all which it inherit / Shall

Dissolve; / And like the baseless Fabric of a Vision / Leave not a

rack behind. It may, perhaps, be mentioned that a change of text has taken place within the penultimate line. This should read - And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, but the sense remains unaltered.

The Wilton Shakespeare, although identical in all other respects, has the poet's finger pointing to the same scroll, but upon which appears…the immortal lines taken from Macbeth:

Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more:


Wilton - portrait of Henry de Vere and Double-Cube room features Perseus (heroic virtue) slaying the Gorgon.


Signifying NIHIL:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5



Empty sound, dead letter, vox et praeterea nihil; "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"; "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal."


Nothing, naught, nil, nullity, zero, cipher, no one, nobody; never a one, ne'er a one; no such thing, none in the world; nothing whatever, nothing at all, nothing on earth; not a particle; (smallness); all talk, moonshine, stuff and nonsense; matter of no importance, matter of no consequence. thing of naught, man of straw, John Doe and Richard Roe, faggot voter; nominis umbra, nonentity; flash in the pan, vox etpraeterea nihil.

vox et praeterea nihil: A voice and nothing more; a mere sound; hence, fine words without weight or meaning

Rollett solution to the Sonnet Dedication - three inverted pyramids


Another Fulke Greville - Maxims, Characters and Reflections, Critical, Satirical and Moral (1756):

...It is certainly true, however little to be accounted for, that the inhabitants of every country have a peculiar characteristic, by which they are distinguished from all others. Every language therefore must have peculiar advantages and disadvantages; it must be more adapted to express those ideas that have a particular connection with the prevailing genius and temper of the people that use it, and must be less adapted to express those ideas which have a particular connection with the temper and genius of others. As to the different characteristics of France and England, they will be best distinguished by a view of each as represented by the other; because the peculiarities of each being then exaggerated, will be more easily discerned. If we believe what a Frenchman would say of England, and an Englishman of France, we shall conclude that one of these Countries is gawdy and fantastic, the other destitute of fancy; one idly volatile, the other solemnly busy; that one is profligate in her manners, the other wants gallantry; one is too fond of company, and the other of solitude; one is trifling, the other formal; one is too much in jest, the other too much in earnest; one carries the gaiety of conversation between the sexes into indelicacy and libertinism, the other renders it insipid by an aukward reserve in one sex, and an ungracious bashfulness in the other; one reasons too much, the other too little: in the production of imagination one indulges a wild and licentious luxuriancy, the other is too tamely fond of exactness, propriety, and rule; for as one is more extensive in her ideas, so is she less precise; and as the other is less extensive, so is she more precise. It is not here necessary, to draw the line of truth between these two accounts; it is sufficient to observe, that there is at least a propensity in the two nations to these excesses, and that when they err, they err in every particular on opposite sides. The general difference is now much less than it was ten years ago: whether we shall continue to approach each other till we meet, or whether we shall withdraw into our original limits, time only can determine.


Wild, fanciful, unrestrained Oxford/Shakespeare's 'Foreign' Manners and Style - too French, too Italian:

Gabriel Harvey's satirical portrait of the Earl of Oxford:

Speculum Tuscanismi

Since Galatea came in, and Tuscanism gan usurp,
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,
For Gallants a brave Mirror, a Primrose of Honour,
A Diamond for nonce, a fellow peerless in England.
Not the like discourser for Tongue, and head to be found out,
Not the like resolute man for great and serious affairs,
Not the like Lynx to spy out secrets and privities of States,
Eyed like to Argus, eared like to Midas, nos'd like to Naso,
Wing'd like to Mercury, fittst of a thousand for to be employ'd,
This, nay more than this, doth practice of Italy in one year.
None do I name, but some do I know, that a piece of a twelve month
Hath so perfited outly and inly both body, both soul,
That none for sense and senses half matchable with them.
A vulture's smelling, Ape's tasting, sight of an eagle,
A spider's touching, Hart's hearing, might of a Lion.
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 appeare, that this English Poet 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."

Characterizing Oxford's 'alien' and 'un-English' Genius - disconnected from the prevailing genius and temper of the English:

Learning from 'Queer' History: Finding ways to recover what has been deliberately dropped (amnesty, oblivion) from history (sometimes) by the 'teleological assumptions of Whig historiography':

Jonathan Goldberg and Madhavi Menon, Queering History:

Paying attention to the question of [sexuality] as a question involves violating the notion that history is the discourse of answers, a discourse whose commitment to determinate signification, Jacques Ranciere has argued, provides false closure, blocking access to the multiplicity of the past and to the possibilities of different futures."

Similar to the current experience of those who pursue the question of authorship. Stratfordians provide a 'discourse of answers'. Coming to terms with the idea of a Shakespeare/Oxford forced to play the role of alien 'Other' obscured by the emerging and ultimately dominant militant Protestant control of British history. Catholic, medieval-minded cosmopolite Oxford remains on the wrong side of English history while his book (paradoxically) resides at the centre.

Shakespeare's appeal - can it be explained in part by the notion of the aristocratic je-ne-sais-quois?

Queer \Queer\, a. [Compar. Queerer; superl. Queerest.] [G.

quer cross, oblique, athwart (cf. querkopf a queer fellow),
OHG. twer, twerh, dwerah; akin to D. dvars, AS,
[thorn]weorh thwart, bent, twisted, Icel. [thorn]verr thwart,
transverse, Goth. [thorn]wa[`i]rhs angry, and perh. to L.
torqyere to twist, and E. through. Cf. Torture, Through,
Thwart, a.]

1. At variance with what is usual or normal; differing in
some odd way from what is ordinary; odd; singular;
strange; whimsical; as, a queer story or act. `` A queer
look.'' --W. Irving.


'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,

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.

(Bevel \Bev"el\, n. [C. F. biveau, earlier buveau, Sp. baivel; of

unknown origin. Cf. Bevile.]
1. Any angle other than a RIGHT angle; )

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Depicting Oxford's Bad Form

The disproportionate and irregular Droeshout engraving 'publickly' brands Oxfordian/Shakespearean unrestrained wit and 'excess', and depicts the disjoined character of Shakespeare's mind (from the perspective of his learned critics).
Jonson's extravagant 'swollen' encomium spouts ink in Shakespeare's face in admirable Shakespearean style - its monstrous bombast concealing its lack of substantial praise. From Jonson's severe neoclassical perspective, form and content are matched (airy nothings).
The Figure and the poem are to be interpreted in the light of Horace's Ars Poetica. Horace differentiates between good and bad poetry - the disproportionate and ambisinister form of the Droeshout makes it clear to the discerning that Shakespeare wrote the 'wrong' way (sinistre in Horace) and is not worthy of imitation. Jonson's extravagant praises conceals his mocks - using the humanist reading model of the Silenus Figure the praises are to be 'opened' and examined by learned 'understanders' to find the judicious neo-classical right-minded criticism (scorn) concealed within.
Why the learned deception? Figurative language was the classically correct way to disguise criticisms of powerful men.


 To The Memory Of My (Self)Beloved
Master William Shakspeare,


Jonson the Aristarch:

Horace, of the Art of Poetrie
transl. Ben Jonson

If to Quintilius, you recited ought:
Hee'd say, Mend this, good friend, and this; "Tis naught.
If you denied, you had no better straine,
And twice, or thrice had 'ssayd it, still in vaine:
Hee'd bid, blot all: and to the anvile bring
Those ill-torn'd Verses, to new hammering.
Then: If your fault you rather had defend
Then change. *No word, or worke, more would he spend
Alone, without a rivall, by his will*.

A wise, and honest man will cry out shame
On ARTELESS Verse; the hard ones he will blame;
Blot out the careless, with his turned pen;
Cut off superfluous ornaments; and when
They're darke, bid cleare this: all that's doubtfull wrote
Reprove; and, what is to be changed, not:
Become an Aristarchus. And, not say,
Why should I grieve my friend, this TRIFLING WAY?
These trifles into serious mischiefs lead
The man once mock'd, and SUFFERED WRONG TO TREAD.


extravagant definition

  1. Obsolete: straying beyond bounds; wandering
  2. going beyond reasonable limits; excessive or unrestrained extravagant demands
  3. too ornate or showy extravagant designs
  4. costing or spending too much; wasteful
Etymology: ME & Anglo-Fr extravagaunt <>extravagans, prp. of extravagari, to stray <>extra, beyond + vagari, to wander < vagus: see vague

In every action it behoves the poet to know which is the utmost bound, how far with fitness, and a necessary proportion, he may produce, and determine it...For, *as a body without proportion cannot be goodly*, no more can the action, either the comedy, or tragedy, without its fit bounds. (Jonson, Discoveries)


Straying beyond Jonson's 'fit bounds':

Jonson, on Shakespeare

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."

Ruling/Restraining Shakespeare's Quill:

From 'To the Deceased Author of these Poems' (William Cartwright)
by Jasper Mayne 

... 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)


 Cartwright, William, Jonsonus Virbius

...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..  


Jonson's 'prodigious' encomium -- pointedly writing the 'wrong way':

To draw no envy, SHAKSPEARE, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame ;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither Man nor Muse can praise too much.
'Tis true, and all men's suffrage.

John Oldham on Jonson
 Never till thee the Theater possest
A Prince with equal Pow'r, and Greatness blest,
No Government, or Laws it had
To strengthen, and establish it,
Till thy great hand the Scepter sway'd,
But groan'd under a wretched Anarchy of Wit:
Unform'd, and void was then its Poesie,
Only some pre-existing Matter we
Perhaps could see,
That might foretell what was to be;
A rude, and undigested Lump it lay,
Like the old Chaos, e're the birth of Light, and Day,
Till thy brave Genius like a new Creator came,
And undertook the mighty Frame;
No shuffled Atoms did the well-built work compose,
If from no lucky hit of blund'ring Chance arose
(As some of this great Fabrick idly dream)
But wise, all-seeing Judgment did contrive,
And knowing Art its Graces give:
No sooner did thy Soul with active Force and Fire
The dull and heavy Mass inspire,
But strait throughout it let us see
Proportion, Order, Harmony,
And every part did to the whole agree,
And strait appear'd a beauteous new-made world of Poetry.

Let dull, and ignorant Pretenders Art condemn
(Those only Foes to Art, and Art to them)
The meer Fanaticks, and Enthusiasts in Poetry
(For Schismaticks in that, as in Religion be)
Who make't all Revelation, Trance, and Dream,
Let them despise her Laws, and think
That Rules and Forms the Spirit stint:

Thine was no mad, unruly Frenzy of the brain,
Which justly might deserve the Chain,
'Twas brisk, and mettled, but a manag'd Rage,
Sprightly as vig'rous Youth, and cool as temp'rate Age:
Free, like thy Will, it did all Force disdain,
But suffer'd Reason's loose, and easie rein,
By that it suffer'd to be led,
Which did not curb Poetick liberty, but guide:
Fancy, that wild and haggard Faculty,
Untam'd in most, and let at random fly,
Was wisely govern'd, and reclaim'd by thee,

Restraint, and Discipline was made endure,
And by thy calm, and milder Judgment brought to lure;

Yet when 'twas at some nobler Quarry sent,
With bold, and tow'ring wings it upward went,
Not lessen'd at the greatest height,
Not turn'd by the most giddy flights of dazling Wit.


Entering Western culture with classical writers, the ethic of moderation and proportion was a touchstone of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century thinking. The definition of physical beauty, proportion was also the rule of virtuous living; and in a period in which there was held to be a sympathy between physical and moral qualities, the one reinforced the other. For, ‘The Affections of the Mind are made known by nothing so well, as by the Body.” Conversely the same held true for the body and soul deformed.
‘Well did Aristotle… call sinnes Monsters of nature, for as there is no Monster ordinarily reputed, but is a SWELLING or excesse of forme, so is there no sinne but is a swelling or rebelling against God.’ (Susan Vincent)

 Jonson, Volpone intro:

...As for the Vile and Slothful, who never affected
an Act worthy of Celebration, or are so inward with their own vicious
Natures, as they worthily fear her, and think it a high Point of
Policy to keep her in contempt with their declamatory and windy
Invectives; she shall out of just rage incite her Servants (who are
Genus iritabile) to spout Ink in their Faces, that shall eat farther
than their Marrow, into their Fames; and not Cinnamus the Barber, with
his Art, shall be able to take out the Brands; but they shall live,
and be read, till the Wretches die, as Things worst deserving of
Themselves in chief, and then of all Mankind.


Jonson - Poetaster
To the Reader


  Author. But, they that have incens'd me, can in Soul
Acquit me of that guilt. *They know, I dare
To spurn, or bafful 'em; or squirt their Eyes
With Ink, or URINE: or I could do worse,
Arm'd with Archilochus fury, write Iambicks,
Should make the desperate lashers hang themselves;
Rhime 'em to Death, as they do Irish Rats
In drumming Tunes. Or, living, I could STAMP
Their FOREHEADS with those deep, and PUBLICK BRAND,
That the whole company of Barber-Surgeons
Should not take off, with all their Art, and Plaisters.
And these my Prints should last, still to be read
In their pale Fronts*: when, what they write 'gainst me,
Shall, like a FIGURE drawn in Water, fleet,
And the poor wretched Papers be imploy'd
To clothe Tabacco, or some cheaper Drug.
This I could do, and make them infamous.
But, to what end? when their own DEEDS have MARK'd 'em
And that I know, within his guilty Breast
Each slanderer bears a WHIP, that shall torment him,
Worse, than a million of these temporal Plagues:
Which to pursue, were but a Feminine humour,
And far beneath the Dignity of Man.

(Their own deeds have mark'd 'em - look not on his picture/but his book)
Stamp their Foreheads:

PROBLEMES OF BEAVTIE and all humane affections.
Written in Italian by Tho: Buoni, cittizen of Lucca.
With a discourse of Beauty, by the same Author.
Translated into English, by S. L. Gent.
AT LONDON Printed by G. Eld, for [H] Edward Blount, and William Aspley. 1606.

VVhy is the seat of shamefastnesse in the forehead? Probleme. 122.

PErhaps, because as Nature hath as|signed to all other the affections their seate in some speciall parte ofthe face: as to Ioy, a merry Semblance, or outward appeara~ce, to Laughter the Countenance, to Sorrow the eie: to feare palenesse of face, trembling of the voice and the like, so to this affection of Shamefastnesse, shee hath giuen that place which did best befit the office thereof, and hath placed it in the high|est part of the face, which we call the forehead, because it is most visible and apparant to the eye of man. And it was fit and conuenient it should be so, be|cause that crimson ruddines that doth there reside, was ordayned as a signe of that chast and honourable minde, which for iust cause feareth to loose his good name, by those vnchast, eyther speeches, or actions, that are presented vnto the sense, eyther to himselfe, or a|ny other in presence. Or Perhaps be|cause Nature would by such open place, and change of colour make ma|nifest to him, that feareth not to vnder|take any dishonourable enterprise, that shee approoueth not intempe|rate actions, or speeches, and whe|ther they be past, or present, or to come, shee doth not onely not commend them, but hath made her

selfe a displayer of that infamy, which by their dishonest desires at their plea|sures they would commit. Or Perhaps, because men placing their honour in that publike fame and report, which by the mouthes of wise and honourable personages, is made manifest to Citties and Countries, Nature would likewise be correspondent, by a publike, and o|pen signe thereof in the forehead.


Jonson, Discoveries

Censura de poetis. - Nothing in our AGE, I have observed, is more PREPOSTEROUS than the running judgments upon poetry and poets; when we shall hear those things commended and cried up for the best writings which a man would scarce vouchsafe to wrap any wholesome drug in; he would never light his tobacco with them. And those men almost named for MIRACLES, who yet are so VILE that if a man should go about to examine and correct them, he must make all they have done but one BLOT. Their good is so entangled with their bad as forcibly one must draw on the other’s death with it. A sponge dipped in ink will do all:-

“ - Comitetur Punica librum
Spongia. - ” {44a}

Et paulò post,

“Non possunt . . . multæ . . . lituræ

. . . una litura potest.”

Cestius - Cicero - Heath - Taylor - Spenser. - Yet their vices have not hurt them; nay, a great many they have profited, for they have been loved for nothing else. And this false opinion grows strong against the best men, if once it take root with the IGNORANT. Cestius, in his time, was preferred to Cicero, so far as the ignorant durst.  They learned him without book, and had him often in their mouths; but a man cannot imagine that thing so foolish or rude but will find and enjoy an admirer; at least a reader or spectator.  The puppets are seen now in despite of the players; Heath' s epigrams and the Sculler' s poems have their applause.  There are never wanting that dare prefer the worst preachers, the worst pleaders, the worst poets; not that the better have left to write or speak better, but that they that hear them judge worse; Non illi pejus dicunt, sed hi corruptius judicant.  Nay, if it were put to the question of the water- rhymer' s works, against Spenser' s, *I doubt not but they would find more suffrages; because the most favour common vices, out of a prerogative the VULGAR have to lose their judgments and like that which is naught.*
Poetry, in this latter age, hath proved but a mean mistress to such as have wholly addicted themselves to her, or given their names up to her family.  They who have but saluted her on the by, and now and then tendered their visits, she hath done much for, and advanced in the way of their own professions (both the law and the gospel) beyond all they could have hoped or done for themselves without her favour.  Wherein she doth emulate the judicious but preposterous bounty of the time' s grandees, who accumulate all they can upon the parasite or fresh-man in their friendship; but think an old client or honest servant bound by his place to write and starve.
Indeed, the multitude commend writers as they do fencers or wrestlers, who if they come in robustiously and put for it with a deal of violence are received for the braver fellows; when many times their own rudeness is a cause of their disgrace, and a slight touch of their adversary gives all that boisterous force the foil.  But in these things the unskilful are naturally deceived, and judging wholly by the bulk, think rude things greater than polished, and scattered more numerous than composed; nor think this only to be true in the sordid multitude, but the neater sort of our gallants; for all are the multitude, only they differ in clothes, not in judgment or understanding.


Venus and Adonis dedication, Shakespeare

Right Honorable, I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden; only, if your honor seem but pleased, I shall account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honored you with some graver labor. But if the first heir of my invention prove DEFORMED, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it will yield me still so BAD a harvest.





...In short, whenever you notice that a DEGENERATE STYLE pleases the critics, you may be sure that character also has deviated from the right standard. Just as luxurious banquets and elaborate dress are indications of disease in the state, similarly a lax style, if it be popular, shows that the mind (which is the source of the word) has lost its balance. Indeed you ought not to wonder that corrupt speech is welcomed not merely by the more squalid mob but also by our more cultured throng; for it is only in their dress and not in their judgments that they differ. You may rather wonder that not only the effects of vices, but even vices themselves, meet with approval. For it has ever been thus: no man's ability has ever been approved without something being pardoned. Show me any man, however famous; I can tell you what it was that his age forgave in him, and what it was that his age purposely overlooked. * I can show you many men whose vices have caused them no harm, and not a few who have been even helped by these vices. Yes, I will show you persons of the highest reputation, set up as models for our admiration; and yet if you seek to correct their errors, you destroy them; for vices are so intertwined with virtues that they drag the virtues along with them.* (SNIP)

Some individual makes these vices fashionable - some person who controls the eloquence of the day; the rest follow his lead and communicate the habit to each other.


 Shakespeare - Sonnet 121

'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
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.


For he [Homer] doth not meane by Mores, how to looke, or put off ones Cap with a new found grace, although true behavior is not to be despised: marry my Heresie is, that the English behaviour is best in England, and the Italians in Italie. But mores hee takes for that from whence Morall Philosophy is so called; the certainnesse of true discerning of mens mindes both in vertue, passion, and vices. --Philip Sidney, Letter

…all the art of rhetorick, besides order and clearness, all the artifical and figurative application of words eloquence hath invented, are for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions. And thereby mislead the judgement…eloquence, like the fair sex, has too prevailing beauties in it to suffer itself ever to be spoken against. And it is vain to find fault with those arts of deceiving wherein men find pleasure to be deceived. (John Locke, The Abuse of Words)

Jonson, Discoveries

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.

John Oldham on Jonson

Sober, and grave was still the Garb thy Muse put on,
No tawdry careless slattern Dress,
Nor starch'd, and formal with Affectedness,
Nor the cast Mode, and Fashion of the Court, and Town;
But neat, agreeable, and janty 'twas,
Well-fitted, it sate close in every place,
And all became with an uncommon Air, and Grace:
Rich, costly and substantial was the stuff,
Not barely smooth, nor yet too coarsly rough:
No refuse, ill-patch'd Shreds o'th Schools,
The motly wear of read, and learned Fools,

No French Commodity which now so much does take,
And our own better Manufacture spoil,
Nor was it ought of forein Soil;
But Staple all, and all of English Growth, and Make:
What Flow'rs soe're of Art it had, were found
No tinsel'd slight Embroideries,
But all appear'd either the native Ground,
Or twisted, wrought, and interwoven with the Piece.

Plain Humor, shewn with her whole various Face,
Not mask'd with any antick Dress,
Nor screw'd in forc'd, ridiculous Grimace
(The gaping Rabbles dull delight,
And more the Actor's than the Poet's Wit)
Such did she enter on thy Stage,
And such was represented to the wond'ring Age:
Well wast thou skill'd, and read in human kind,
In every wild fantastick Passion of his mind,
Didst into all his hidden Inclinations dive,
What each from Nature does receive,
Or Age, or Sex, or Quality, or Country give;
What Custom too, that mighty Sorceress,
Whose pow'rful Witchcraft does transform
Enchanted Man to several monstrous Images,
Makes this an odd, and freakish Monky turn,
And that a grave and solemn Ass appear,
And all a thousand beastly shapes of Folly wear:
Whate're Caprice or Whimsie leads awry
Perverted, and seduc'd Mortality,
Or does incline, and byass it
From what's Discreet, and Wise, and Right, and Good, and Fit;

All in thy faithful Glass were so express'd,
As if they were Reflections of thy Breast,
As if they had been stamp'd on thy own mind,
And thou the universal vast Idea of Mankind.

'Learned' Laureate Poets vs. 'Ignorant' Court 'Rhymers':

 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.

Return from Parnassus

I ngenioso My pen is your bounden vassal to command;
but what vein would it please you to have them in?

Gullio Not in a vain vein (titters at own joke; Ingenioso
feebly joins in) Pretty, i'faith! - make me them in two or
three diverse veins,(Ingenioso scribbles notes frantically) in
Chaucer's, Gower's and Spencer's, and - (Ingenioso
shudders, knowing what's coming) Mr Shakespeare's.
Marry, I think I shall entertain those verses which run like

Euen as the sun with purple-coloured face
Had ta'en his last leave on the weeping morn, etc.

O sweet Mr Shakspeare! I'll have his picture in my study at
the court.

Droeshout - Mark of Oxford's Mind/Race of Shakespeare's Mind and Manners:

De corruptela morum -- There cannot be one colour of the MIND; another of the wit. If the mind be staid, grave, and composed, the wit is so; that vitiated, the other is blown, and deflowered. Do we not see, if the mind languish, the members are dull? Look upon an effeminate person: his very gait confesseth him. If a man be fiery, his motion is so; if angry, 'tis troubled, and violent. So that we may conclude wheresoever manners, and fashions are corrupted, language is. It imitates the public riot. The EXCESS of feasts, and apparel, are the notes of a sick state; and the wantonness of language, of a sick MIND.
(Discoveries 1171) Jonson


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 Poëme. 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.

Treading the Common Path to Praise in the Folio:

Jonson deliberately praised Shakespeare the 'wrong' way in the First Folio encomium (critical truth veiled under figured language):

Were not the PATHS I meant unto thy praise ;
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, BUT ECHOES RIGHT ;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance ;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin where it SEEMED to raise.
These are, as some infamous bawd or whore
Should praise a matron ; what could hurt her more ?

Jonson on Show and Seeming:

Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners
brightly shines
In his well turned and true FILED lines;
In each of which he *SEEMS* to shake a lance,
As brandisht at the EYES of IGNORANCE.


Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to *SHOW*
Tis true, dear Ben, thy just chastising hand

Hath fix'd upon the sotted age a brand


 _The Alchemist_, Jonson

P R O L O G U E.

FOrtune, that favours Fools, these two short Hours
We wish away, both for your sakes, and ours,
Judging Spectators; and desire in place,
To th' Author Justice, to our selves but Grace.
Our Scene is London, 'cause we would make known,
No Countries Mirth is better than our own:
No Clime breeds better Matter for your Whore,
Bawd, Squire, Impostor, many Persons more,
Whose MANNERS, NOW CALL'D HUMOURS, feed the Stage;
And which have still been Subject for the Rage
Or Spleen of Comick Writers. Though this Pen
Did never aim to grieve, but better Men;
Howe'er the AGE he lives in doth endure
The Vices that she breeds, above their Cure.
But when the wholesom Remedies are sweet,
And in their working Gain and Profit meet,
He hopes to find no Spirit so much diseas'd,
But will with such fair Correctives be pleas'd:
For here he doth not fear who can apply.
If there be any that will sit so nigh
Unto the Stream, to look what it doth run,
They shall find things, they'ld think, or wish, were done;
They are so natural Follies, but so shown,
As even the Doers may see, and yet now own.


And which have still been Subject for the RAGE
Or Spleen of Comick Writers. Though this Pen
Did never aim to grieve, but better Men;
Howe'er the AGE he lives in doth endure
The Vices that she breeds, above their Cure.

Soul of the Age:

Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with RAGE
Or influence, chide or cheer the drooping stage,
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourned like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.

Aristocratic Shine: (added Oct 2014)

Brilliance and other qualities of light - including glamour, resplendence, luster and splendor - were essential courtly ideals that constituted aristocratic authority by emitting distinction and nobility in fifteenth-century Italy. Light radiating from the hair, complexion, clothing, jewels, and armor of flesh-and-blood princes manifested their status and virtue.
footnote - 'We should be attuned to inflections relating to light in Italian words such as pulito (polished, in addition to clean) or chiaro (more luminous than merely clear) and in the modern English words and phrases that have lost htis aspect of their meaning in general usage: splendid, luminary, illustrious, brilliant, glamorous, or to shine as in to perform exceptionally well.

--from Timothy McCall, Adornment of Men in North Italy's Quattrocento Courts


  SONNET 111

O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:
Pity me then and wish I were renew'd;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel 'gainst my strong infection
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye
Even that your pity is enough to cure me.

 Shakespeare - Sonnet 72
O! lest the world should task you to recite
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.


 Horace, of the Art of Poetrie

transl. Ben Jonson

...If to Quintilius, you recited ought:
Hee'd say, Mend this, good friend, and this; "Tis naught.
If you denied, you had no better straine,
And twice, or thrice had 'ssayd it, still in vaine:
Hee'd bid, blot all: and to the anvile bring
Those ill-torn'd Verses, to new hammering.
Then: If your fault you rather had defend
Then change. No word, or worke, more would he spend
In vaine, BUT YOU, AND YOURS, YOU should LOVE STILL (note- self- loving)
Alone, without a rivall, by his will.

A wise, and HONEST man will cry out shame
On artlesse Verse; the hard ones he will blame;
Blot out the careless, with his turned pen;
Cut off superfluous ornaments; and when
They're darke, bid cleare this: all that's doubtfull wrote
Reprove; and, what is to be changed, not:
Become an Aristarchus. And, not say,
Why should I grieve my friend, this trifling WAY?
These trifles into serious mischiefs lead
The man once mock'd, and suffered WRONG TO TREAD.



I remember, the Players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing, (whatsoever he penn'd) hee never BLOTTED out line. My answer hath beene, would he had BLOTTED a thousand. Which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their IGNORANCE, who choose that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most FAULTED... 

Horace Of the Art of Poetry - transl. Ben Jonson

...Most writers, noble sire and either son,
Are, with the likeness of the truth, undone.
Myself for shortness labour, and I grow
Obscure. This, striving to run smooth,
and flow,
Hath neither soul nor sinews. Lofty he
Professing greatness, swells; that, low by lee,
Creeps on the ground; too safe, afraid of storm.
This seeking, in a various kind, to form
One thing PRODIGIOUSLY, paints in the woods
A dolphin, and a boar amid the floods.
So shunning faults to greater fault doth lead,

John Oldham on Jonson
Let meaner spirits stoop to low precarious Fame,
Content on gross and coarse Applause to live,
And what the dull, and sensless Rabble give,
Thou didst it still with noble scorn contemn,
Nor would'st that wretched Alms receive,
The poor subsistence of some bankrupt, sordid name:
Thine was no empty Vapor, rais'd beneath,
And form'd of common Breath,
The false, and foolish Fire, that's whisk'd about
By popular Air, and glares a while, and then goes out;
But 'twas a solid, whole, and perfect Globe of light,
That shone all over, was all over bright,
And dar'd all sullying Clouds, and fear'd no darkning night;
Like the gay Monarch of the Stars and Sky,
Who wheresoe're he does display
His sovereign Lustre, and majestick Ray,
Strait all the less, and petty Glories nigh
Vanish, and shrink away.
O'rewhelm'd, and swallow'd by the greater blaze of Day;
With such a strong, an awful and victorious Beam
Appear'd, and ever shall appear, thy Fame,
View'd, and ador'd by all th' undoubted Race of Wit,
Who only can endure to look on it.
The rest o'recame with too much light,
With too much brightness dazled, or extinguish'd quite:
Restless, and uncontroul'd it now shall pass
As wide a course about the World as he,
And when his long-repeated Travels cease
Begin a new, and vaster Race,
And still tread round the endless Circle of Eternity.

Irregular Amorphus/Oxford in theWar of the Theatres:

Beware then thou render Mens Figures truly, and teach them no less to hate their Deformities, than to love their Forms -- Jonson, _Narcissus or Cynthia's Revels_

Jonson, Every Man Out
Asper. Well, I will scourge those Apes,

And to these courteous Eyes oppose a Mirrour,
As large as is the Stage whereon we act;
Where they shall see the Times Deformity
Anatomiz'd in every Nerve and Sinew,
With constant Courage, and contempt of Fear.

Apologies to Chapman:
[Shakespeare's] lookes were like the pictures that are made,
To th'optike reason; one way like a shade,
Another monster like, and every way
To passers by, and such as made no stay,
To view it in a right line, face to face,
It seem'd a serious trifle.


The Face of the Droeshout:

All action is of the MIND and the mirror of the mind is the FACE, its index the eyes.-- Cicero

I can refell [refute] that Paradox of those, which hold the face to be the Index of the minde.[1601 Jonson Cynthia's Revels - Amorphus the Deformed]

Cf. [Cicero Orator lx.] ut imago est animi voltus sic indices oculi, *the face is a picture of the mind* as the eyes are its interpreter; L. vultus est index animi (also oculus animi index), the face (also, eye) is the index of the mind.


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*.


Earl of Oxford as 'Other' or 'Alien' Race:

Monstrous Bodies/Political Monstrosities in Early Modern Europe. E d. Laura Lunger Knoppers and Joan B. Landes. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004. 295 pp. $22.50. ISBN 0-8014-8901-6. REVIEWED BY: Alisa Plant, Tulane University This engaging collection of articles, written by scholars from a range of disciplines, explores the myriad connections between the monstrous and the political in early modern Europe. In an excellent introduction, editors Laura Lunger Knoppers and Joan B. Landes argue against a "progressive" narrative of the monstrous, in which monsters have been ratio nalized, naturalized, and ultimately normalized; this, they contend, "undervalues the politi cal, polemical, and juridical uses of monstrous imagery throughout the early modern period" (8). Rather, monsters served as "crucial definitional Others" (7), simultaneously reifying and challenging identity-be it religious, ethnic, national, or political-on both the individual and the collective level.The volume's eight contributions aptly demonstrate as much. Following the introduction, the book is divided into four parts. In part 1, "Monstrous Races, Boundaries, and Nationhood," Peter Burke provides a sweeping and thought-pro voking analysis of monstrous races (giants, wild men, and the like) and national stereotypes in early modern Europe. By imparting elements of the monstrous to national characteristics, he argues, early modern men and women were better able to define their own national iden tities and to delimit cultural differences in a rapidly changing (and for them, expanding) world. Next, David Cressy focuses on two accounts published in England in the 1640s, both involving the birth of a headless baby. In the first case, a nonconformist declares her unwill ingness to have her expected baby baptized on the forehead with the sign of the cross; in the second, an expectant recusant avers, in essence, "Better no head than a Roundhead!" Skill fully unpacking the multiple layers of meaning in these two incidents, Cressy succeeds in showing "how the horrors of monstrous birth related to the horrors of religious division in a country moving from the many-headed monster of rebellion to the revolutionary spectacle of a headless king" (44-45).