Thursday, April 28, 2016

Oxford, Jonson and the Humanist Critique of Aristocratic Worth

Oxford, Jonson and the Crisis of Aristocratic Merit

Oxford, Jonson and the Humanist Critique of Aristocratic Worth

Renouncing Exemplarity

Oxford – Exemplary homme a la mode

Sociability and Worldliness in the Elizabethan Court

Mocking Courtly Sociability in Cynthia’s Revels
Le Monde/The Globe

Admirable Oxford or Graceful Trifler? Pergraecari

At this point in time I'll suggest that Oxford resisted the exemplary models of his classically-trained humanist educators (imitation) and instead charted a more individualistic path of aristocratic sociability and aesthetic excellence (invention). The resultant figure of the refined and cultivated man-of-the-world appears to have set off a bit of a craze among aspirational gentlemen in England. However, based in part on an Italianate model, the figure of the perfect courtier or cavalier (addressed to all men of good will; witty and somewhat cheeky) was not entirely well received in England. The most scathing critiques of Oxford's person and his art suggested that he had cobbled himself together in a monstrous fashion out of the rags and shreds of other men and other cultures and forms. At the time of his death he was considered not to be an exemplary figure according to the political and educational biases of the times. His checkered reputation and his literary legacy (Shakespear's Works have descended to us along separate lines - with spectacularly different results.


Arthur Golding to Edward de Vere (Epistle Dedicatorie,  Psalms):

...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...


Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England

By Mary Thomas Crane

…[It] was a deeply threatening idea that a particular kind of education (or, indeed, a prose style indicative of that education) could replace birth and wealth as criteria for access to power. It posed the greatest threat, as Lawrence Stone points out, to the aristocrats whom it disenfranchised, and until they were able, in the seventeenth century, to recast educational credentials on the basis of attendance at certain elite (and expensive) schools, they were forced to reassert an alternative training for aristocratic youth. It also threatened the humanists themselves, who saw in their own upward mobility not only potentially dangerous eminence but also a disquieting acquiescence in capitalist and republican tendencies and a palpable threat to the concepts of order and hierarchy that they promulgated. These issues surface (in the 1520s through the 1540s) in the form of preoccupation with “value,” and in discussions of what society ought to value and how “wealth” (both monetary and cultural) should be displayed and shared.
Stone has shown how the “educational revolution” effected by English humanists contributed to the “crisis of the aristocracy” in the seventeenth century. He argues that in the sixteenth century, the new ideal of “gentleman” based on education “increased the opportunities of the gentry to compete for office on more equal terms with the nobility.” There are signs, however, of ARISTOCRATIC RESISTANCE to the humanist model of counsel, and in this resistance lie the seeds of the alternative model of courtly advancement, the ITALIANATE COURTIER. According to this model, “WORTH” is manifested through the conspicuous consumption of “worthless” TRIFLES (clothes, jewelry) and participation in frivolous pastimes (hunting, dicing, dancing, composing love lyrics).

Wit as 'Natural', Learning as 'Artificial':


 Steven May, The Elizabethan Courtier Poets:

...Although Dyer has been considered the premier Elizabethan courtier poet, that is, the first to compose love lyrics there, the available evidence confers this distinction upon the earl of Oxford. His early datable work conforms, nevertheless, to one of the established functions for poetry practiced by Ascham and Wilson. IN 1572, Oxford turned out commendatory verses for a translation of Cardano's _Comfort_, published in 1573 by his gentleman pensioner friend, Thomas Bedingfield. This poem differs from earlier efforts of the kind not so much because it appeared in English (as had Ascham's verses for Blundeville's book), but because his verses are so self-consciously poetic. The earl uses twenty-six lines to develop his formulaic exempla: Bedingfield's good efforts are enjoyed by others just as laborers, masons, bees, and so forth also work for the profit of others. Oxford flaunts a COPIOUS rhetoric in this poem in contrast with the more direct, unembellished commendatory verses of his predecessors. His greatest innovation, however, lies in his application of the same qualities of style to the eight poems assigned to him in the 1576 Paradise of Dainty Devices, pieces that Oxford must have composed before 1575.

DeVere's eight poems in the _Paradise_ create a dramatic break with everything known to have been written at the Elizabethan court at that time...The diversity of Oxford's subjects, including his varied analyses of the lover's state, were practically as unknown to contemporary out-of -court writer as they were to courtiers.

Oxford's birth and social standing at court in the 1570's made him a model of aristocratic behaviour. He was, for instance, accused of introducing Italian gloves and other such fripperies at court; his example would have lent respectability even to so trivial a pursuit as the writing of love poetry. Thus, while it is possible that Dyer was writing poetry as early as the 1560's, his earliest datable verse, the complaint sung to the queen at Woodstock in 1575, may itself have been inspired by Oxford's work in the same vein. Dyer's first six poems in Part II are the ones he is most likely to have composed before his association with Philip Sidney. ...Yet even if all six (of Dyer's poems) were written by 1575, Oxford would still emerge as the chief innovator due to the range of his subject matter and the variety of its execution. ...By contrast, Dyer was a specialist...Dyer's output represents a great departure from courtier verse of the 1560's, and several of his poems were more widely circulated and imitated than any of Oxford's; still, the latter's experimentation provided a much broader foundation for the development of lyric poetry at court. (pp. 52-54)

Mary Thomas Crane (con't.)

...[A]ristocratic households centered on instruction in music, service at table, and hunting. Of these activities, hunting is most often used to represent this curriculum in contrast to the humanist program. As a famous remark related by Richard Pace in his De fructu qui ex doctrina percipitur (The benefit of a liberal education) sets up the paradigmatic conflict between study and hunting. Pace tells how a drunken nobleman claims that it is more suitable for “sons of the nobility…to blow the horn properly, hunt like experts what Frank Whigham calls the “fetish of recreation”: noble men indulged their preoccupation with sport in order to demonstrate a “mode of life characterized by leisure, spontaneity, the private, the casual.” Only artistocrats, and train and carry a hawk gracefully” than to go noted in previous chapters, the traditional youthful training for aristocrats in prehumanist times took place in to school. Hunting represents training in martial skills necessary to noblemen under the older feudal system and also, increasingly, participates in possessed the status and wealth that enabled development of skill in “trifling” pastimes. Aristocratic training also valued natural grace and ability more than the diligent labor necessary in the humanist classroom. Thus, educated aristocrats are often described as cultus (“cultivated,” implying the cultivation of natural talents) and educated humanists as doctus  (“learned,” implying exposure to a given curriculum). (pp., 100-101). 

Gabriel Harvey to Oxford:

I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea,
even more English verses are extant;
thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses of France and Italy,
but hast learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries.
It was not for nothing that Sturmius , 2 himself was visited by thee;
neither in France, Italy, nor Germany are any such cultivated and polished men.
O thou hero worthy of renown, throw away the insignificant pen, throw away bloodless books,
and writings that serve no useful purpose; now must the sword be brought into play,
now is the time for thee to sharpen the spear and to handle great engines of war.


How careful was I when I took my way,
Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,
That to my use it might unused stay
From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust!
But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,
Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief,
Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,
Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.
Thee have I not locked up in any chest,
Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art,
Within the gentle closure of my breast,
From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part;
     And even thence thou wilt be stol'n I fear,
     For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.

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.

In Cynthia’s Revels Jonson describes Amorphus, the Deformed as the discoverer of the Fountain of Self-Love. In the 1616 Folio he identified Amorphus as Edward de Vere by having Amorphus repeat a line of poetry that had originally appeared in a flattering encomium written to the earl. It may seem unusual that Jonson resorted to a poem that was decades old by the time he wrote Cynthia’s Revels, but the choice was apt and serviceable for Jonson's uses. The line had already enjoyed some infamy having been selected as an example of vicious speech by Puttenham in his Art of Poetry.  In ventriloquizing Southern’s poem Jonson not only suggests Amorphus’s susceptibility to flattery but also his ‘deformed’ judgement and discretion. Selected by Puttenham as an example of the vicious ‘mingle-mangle’ or soraismus, the line reflects Jonson's apparent opinion that far from being a 'beau esprit', Oxford possessed a ‘deformed’ wit.


E  P  I  G  R  A  M  S . Jonson


Poor POET-APE, that would be thought our chief,
   Whose works are e'en the frippery of wit,
From brokage is become so bold a thief,
   As we, the robb'd, leave rage, and pity it.
At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,
   Buy the reversion of old plays ;  now grown
To a little wealth, and credit in the scene,
   He takes up all, makes each man's wit his own :
And, told of this, he slights it.  Tut, such crimes
   The sluggish gaping auditor devours ;
He marks not whose 'twas first : and after-times
   May judge it to be his, as well as ours.
Fool !  as if half eyes will not know a fleece
   From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece ? 


The Returne from Parnassus

Ingenioso : (groaning, aside) It will be my luck to die no
other death than by hearing of his follies. I fear this speech
that's a-coming will breed a deadly DISEASE in my ears.

Gullio (beaming) Pardon fair lady,
though sick- thoughted Gullio makes amain unto thee, and
like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo thee!

Ingenioso :(puking) We shall have nothing but pure
Shakspeare, and shreds of poetry that he hath gathered at
the theatres.

A fashionable disease - If thou couldst, doctor, cast. The water of my land, find her disease,. And purge it -

Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our WATERS yet appear,


Sexual Types: Embodiment, Agency, and Dramatic Character from Shakespeare to Shirley
By Mario DiGangi

“In the dedication to the court that he included in the Folio version of Cynthia's Revels, Jonson articulates through the conventional image of the fountain the ideal correspondence between the virtuous courtier and the virtuous court:

Thou are a bountiful and brave spring: and waterest all the noble plants of this island. In thee, the whole kingdom dresseth itself, and is abitious to use thee as her glass. Beware, then, thou render men’s figures truly, and teach them no less to hate their deformities than to love their forms: for, to grace there should come reverence; and no man can call that lovely which is not also venerable. It is not powdering, perfuming, and every day smelling of the tailor that converteth to a beautiful object: but a mind, shining through any suit, which needs no false light either of riches, or honours to help it. (Dedication 1-10) At once a “bountiful and brave spring” for the nobility and a “glass” for the kingdom, the court should present only truly virtuous “figures” as models of behaviour. The true courtier appears “lovely” not because of a rich “suit” but because of the virtuous mind that shines through his graceful “form.” By contrast, those courtiers obsessed with powdering and perfuming are “deformities,” their riches and titles comparable to the “false light” a merchant uses to mask defective goods. To avoid becoming a “Spring of Self-love,” the court must reject such deformities (Dedication 13).
The difficulty with this imperative, as Mercury recognizes, is in making apparent to all observers the difference between those courtiers who do and those who do not “represent” the fountain of virtue at the center of the kingdom. Mercury reassured Crites that when the unworthy courtiers are finally exposed and humiliated, those courtiers who know themselves to be virtuous will find their merit affirmed by this spectacle of punishment:

The better race in Court
That have the true nobility, called virtue,
Will apprehend it as a grateful right
Done to their separate merit: and approve
The fit rebuke of so ridiculous heads,
Thos with their apish customs and forced garbs
Would bring the name of courtier in contempt,
Did it not live unblemished in some few
Whom equal Jove hath loved, and Phoebus formed
Of better metal, and in better mould. (5.1.30-39)


Droeshout as the Sign of the Unexemplary Courtier

The above passage (from DiGangi) contains a solution to the mystery of the strange construction of the Droeshout engraving. The Droeshout is a ‘spectacle of punishment’ – and a terrible brand at the front of Shakespeare’s First Folio – a figure formed not of ‘better metal, and in better mould’ but of 'worser' metal (brass) and 'worser' mould – in Jonson's opinion a fit rebuke of the ‘ridiculous’ heads that Jonson had attacked in Cynthia’s Revels. Shakespeare/Oxford, the darling of aristocratic court society and the City gallants, was branded as base and vicious, and therefore ‘nothing worth’.

(Hamlet's 'Drossy Age'): drossy: i.e., worthless, frivolous.  —In metallurgy, dross is the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal. )

Compare to Jonson's 1611 'Ignorant Age' dedication to the exemplary William Herbert:
In so thick and dark an IGNORANCE, as now almost covers the AGE, I crave leave to stand near 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 Poem. I must call it so, against all noise of Opinion: from whose crude and airy Reports, I appeal to that great and singular Faculty of Judgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate Truth from Error.


Upon Ben: Johnson, the most excellent of Comick Poets.

Mirror of Poets! Mirror of our Age!
Which her whole Face beholding on thy stage,
Pleas'd and displeas'd with her owne faults endures,
A remedy, like Those whom Musicke cures,
Thou not alone those various inclinations,
Which Nature gives to Ages, Sexes, Nations,
Hast traced with thy All-resembling Pen,
But all that custome hath impos'd on Men,
Or ill-got Habits, which distort them so,
That scarce the Brother can the Brother know,
Is represented to the wondring Eyes,
Of all that see or read thy Comedies.
Whoever in those Glasses lookes may finde,
The spots return'd, or graces of his minde;
And by the helpe of so divine an Art,
At leisure view, and dresse his nobler part.
NARCISSUS conzen'd by that flattering Well,
Which nothing could but of his beauty tell,
Had here discovering the DEFORM'D estate
Of his fond minde, preserv'd himselfe with hate,
But Vertue too, as well as Vice is clad,
In flesh and blood so well, that Plato had
Beheld what his high Fancie once embrac'd,
Vertue with colour, speech and motion grac'd.
The sundry Postures of Thy copious Muse,
Who would expresse a thousand tongues must use,
Whose Fates no lesse peculiar then thy Art,
For as thou couldst all characters impart,
So none can render thine, who still escapes,
Like Proteus in variety of shapes,
Who was nor this nor that, but all we finde,
And all we can imagine in mankind.

E. Waller


An Art that showes th' Idea of his mind -- John Davies, Orchestra

Brass/Base Metal

 An Unexemplary Metal, and Worse Figure:

Jonson, To the Reader (Shakespeare's First Folio)

This figure that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
Wherein the graver had a strife
With Nature, to out-do the life:
O could he but have drawn his wit
As well in brass, as he has hit
His face; the print would then surpass
All that was ever writ in brass:
But since he cannot, reader, look
Not on his picture, but his book.

( I may no longer on these PICTURES stay,--Jonson)


‘Master of Courtship’ Edward De Vere - Intro, Castiglione's Courtier:

For what more difficult, more noble, or more magnificent task has anyone ever undertaken than our author Castiglione, who has drawn for us the FIGURE and MODEL of a courtier, a work to which nothing can be added, in which there is no redundant word, a portrait which we shall recognize as that of a highest and most perfect type of man. And so, although NATURE herself has made nothing perfect in every detail, yet THE MANNERS OF MEN exceed in dignity that with which NATURE has endowed them; and he who SURPASSES others has here SURPASSED himself and has even OUT-DONE nature, which by no one has ever been SURPASSED.


Conforming to God’s High Figures in Cynthia’s Revels:

Cynthia's Revels, Jonson

MERCURY. Why, Crites, think you any noble spirit,
Or any, worth the title of a man,
Will be incensed to see the enchanted veils
Of self-conceit, and servile flattery,
Wrapt in so many folds by time and custom,
Drawn from his wronged and bewitched eyes?
Who sees not now their shape and nakedness,
Is blinder than the son of earth, the mole;
Crown'd with no more humanity, nor soul.

CRITES. Though they may see it, yet the huge estate
FANCY, and FORM, and SENSUAL PRIDE have gotten,
Will make them blush for anger, not for shame,
And turn shewn nakedness to impudence.
Humour is now the test we try things in:
All power is just: nought that delights is sin.
And yet the zeal of every knowing man
Opprest with hills of tyranny, cast on virtue
By the light fancies of fools, thus transported.
Cannot but vent the Aetna of his fires,
T'inflame best bosoms with much worthier love
Than of these outward and effeminate shades; 

That these vain joys, in which their WILLS consume
Such powers of wit and soul as are of force
To raise their beings to eternity,
May be converted on works fitting men:
And, for the practice of a forced look,
An antic gesture, or a fustian phrase,
Study the native frame of a true heart,
An inward comeliness of bounty, knowledge,
And spirit that may conform them actually
, which they have in power;
Which to neglect for a self-loving neatness,
Is sacrilege of an unpardon'd greatness.

MER. Then let the truth of these things strengthen thee,
In thy exempt and only man-like course;
Like it the more, the less it is respected:
Though men fail, virtue is by gods protected. --
See, here comes Arete; I'll withdraw myself. [EXIT.]


 Shake-speare, great heir of aristocratic extravagance, and the darling of the Tempestuous Grandlings/Greeklings of the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts. Jonson would attack these silken men in his ‘loathsome Age’ speech (after the rejection of his 'New Inn'), ridiculing the barbarous tastes of the ‘play-club’. A more detailed critique of the undesirable social forms of the ancient nobility emerges in Jonson’s ‘Speech According to Horace’ – a group that brazenly proved resistant to the exemplary forms of Jonson’s art.

A Speech according to Horace. --Jonson


And could (if our great Men would let their Sons
Come to their Schools,) show 'em the use of Guns.
And there instruct the noble English Heirs
In Politick, and Militar Affairs;
But he that should perswade, to have this done
For Education of our Lordings; Soon
Should he hear of Billow, Wind, and Storm,
From the Tempestuous Grandlings, who'll inform
Us, in our bearing, that are thus, and thus,
Born, bred, allied? what's he dare tutor us?
Are we by Book-worms to be aw'd? must we
Live by their Scale, that dare do nothing free?
Why are we Rich, or Great, except to show
All licence in our Lives? What need we know?
More then to praise a Dog? or Horse? or speak
The Hawking Language? or our Day to break
With Citizens? let Clowns, and Tradesmen breed
Their Sons to study Arts, the Laws, the Creed:
We will believe like Men of our own Rank,
In so much Land a year, or such a Bank,
That turns us so much Monies, at which rate
Our Ancestors impos'd on Prince and State.
Let poor Nobility be vertuous: We,
Descended in a Rope of Titles, be
From Guy, or Bevis, Arthur, or from whom
The Herald will. Our Blood is now become,
Past any need of Vertue. Let them care,
That in the Cradle of their Gentry are;
To serve the State by Councels, and by Arms:
We neither love the Troubles, nor the harms.
What love you then? your Whore? what study? Gate,
Carriage, and Dressing. There is up of late
The ACADEMY, where the Gallants meet ——
What to make Legs? yes, and to smell most sweet,
All that they do at Plays. O, but first here
They learn and study; and then practise there.
But why are all these Irons i' the Fire
Of several makings? helps, helps, t' attire
His Lordship. That is for his Band, his Hair
This, and that Box his Beauty to repair;
This other for his Eye-brows; hence, away,
I may no longer on these PICTURES stay,
These Carkasses of Honour; Taylors blocks,
Cover'd with Tissue, whose prosperity mocks
The fate of things: whilst totter'd Vertue holds
Her broken Arms up, to their EMPTY MOULDS.

Tempestuous Grandlings/Graeculi

There is up of late
The ACADEMY, where the Gallants meet ——
What to make Legs? yes, and to smell most sweet,
All that they do at Plays. 

William Jaggard: Cupid's Cabinet Unlocked, Or, The New Accademy of Complements by W. Shakespeare

The title-page of this undated duodecimo volume does not indicate when or by whom it was printed, but describes it as 'Cupids Cabinet unlock't, Or, THE NEW ACCADEMY OF COMPLEMENTS. Odes, Epigrams, Songs, and Sonnets, Poesies, Presentations, Congratulations, Ejaculatins, Rhapsodies, &c.' writeen 'By W. Shakespeare'. Bound with the Art of Courtship

 More 'ridiculous heads':

Chapman, Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois


They are the breathing sepulchres of noblesse:
No trulier noble men, then lions pictures
Hung up for signs are lions. (2.1. l.154-156)


A man may well
compare them to those foolish great-spleened camels
That, to their high heads, begged of Jove horns higher;
Whose most uncomely and ridiculous pride
When he had satisfied, they could not use,
But where they went upright before, they stooped,
And bore their heads much lower for their horns;
As these high men do, low in all true grace,
Their height being privilege to all things base.
And as the foolish poet that still writ
All his most self-loved verse in paper royal
Or parchment ruled with lead, smoothed with the pumice,
Bound richly up, and strung with crimson strings;
Never so blest as when he writ and read
The ape-loved issue of his brain, and never
But joying in himself, ADMIRING EVER,
Yet in his works behold him, and he showed
Like to a ditcher: so these painted men
All set on outside, look upon within
And not a peasants entrails you shall find
More foul and measled, nor more starved of mind.

Hamlet's Drossy Age: 
drossy: i.e., worthless, frivolous.  —In metallurgy, dross is the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal. 

Hamlet - Prince's mind imbued with Humanist and militant Protestant pedagogy. Rejects the aristocratic model of courtship as effeminate and worthless and seeks to model himself after heroic exemplars (Brutus/Aeneas). Unfortunately the violence inherent in heroic and militant rhetoric (ambiguous armed figures) wreak havoc in the Danish court. Imitates Brutus' feigned madness. Comedy is satirical (Jonsonian) rather than festive.

Hamlet - Heterosocial courtier Oxford/Shakespeare's response to Cynthia's Revels? Hamlet and Horatio/Horace most resemble Jonson's Crites/Criticus in CR. Hamlet's tastes and opinions appear to be modelled after those of Ben Jonson. Homosocial. Commentary on Jonson's 'consociation' of Prince and Poet? Ambitious 'Roman' Horatio/Horace quickly establishes himself as the foremost scholar/poet of the Norwegian Prince Fortinbras' court. (Mixed allegiances of continental humanism?)


Male impersonators: men performing masculinity
By Mark Simpson


According to the Greek myth Narcissus was told by the blind seer Teiresias when he was a child that he should live to a great age if he never knew himself. Narcissus grew up to be a beautiful young man but proud and haughty. An embittered youth, unrequited in his love for Narcissus, cursed him to love that which could not be obtained. One day on Mount Helicon Narcissus caught sight of his own reflection 'endowed with all the beauty that man could desire and unawares he began to love the image of himself which, although itself perfect beauty, could not return his love.' Narcissus, worn out by the futility of his love, turned into the yellow-centred flower with white petals named after him.
The myth tells us something about the relation of modern man to his own image. Narcissus is not seduced by his reflection in any common pool - he glimpses and falls in love with his reflection on Mount Helicon, the sacred mountain where Apollo, Artemis and the Muses danced: the symbolic centre of the arts. His reflection is not one of nature but an idealized image refracted through man's art. Thus his image is 'endowed with all the beauty that man could desire' and he falls in love with it. And like nineties Western man, Narcissus finds that it is a love that 'could not be obtained'.


Spenser, Faerie Queene

To the right Honourable the Earle
of Oxenford, Lord high Chamberlayne of
England. &c.

And also for the LOVE, which thou doest beare
To th'HELICONIAN YMPS, and they to thee,
They vnto thee, and thou to them most deare:
That LOVES & honours thee, *as doth behoue*.


SInne of ſelfe-loue poſſeſſeth al mine eie,
And all my ſoule,and al my euery part;
And for this ſinne there is no remedie,
It is ſo grounded inward in my heart.
Me thinkes no face ſo gratious is as mine,
No ſhape ſo true,no truth of ſuch account,
And for my ſelfe mine owne worth do define,
As I all other in all worths ſurmount.
But when my glaſſe ſhewes me my ſelfe indeed
Beated and chopt with tanned antiquitie,
Mine owne ſelfe loue quite contrary I read
Selfe,ſo ſelfe louing were iniquity,
   T'is thee(my ſelfe)that for my ſelfe I praiſe,
   Painting my age with beauty of thy daies,

 And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek -- Jonson on Shakespeare

Alciato's Book of Emblems
Emblem 69


Because your figure pleased you too much, Narcissus, it was changed into a flower, a plant of known senselessness. Self-love is the withering and destruction of natural power which brings and has brought ruin to many learned men, who having thrown away the METHOD OF THE ANCIENTS seek new doctrines and pass on nothing but their own fantasies.

Jonson’s Scope:
To draw no envy, SHAKSPEARE, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame ;

Jonson, Cynthia's Revels

Cynthia: Dear Arete, and Crites, to you two
We give the Charge; impose what Pains you please:
Remembring ever what we first decreed,
Since Revels were proclaim'd, let now none bleed.
Arete. How well Diana can distinguish Times,
And sort her Censures, keeping to her self
The Doom of Gods, leaving the rest to us?
Come, cite them, Crites, first, and then proceed.
Then, Crites, practise thy DISCRETION.


(The word [discretion] was almost invariably used in Elizabethan England as a means of constructing social, cultural, or aesthetic difference. (David Hillman, Puttenham, Shakespeare, and the abuse of rhetoric).


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,
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  
THY thoughts were their owne Lawrell, and did win
That best applause of being crown'd within..

 styl'd NAME what was but NOISE; and getting Briefes for fame/ Gathered the man's suffrages - Cartwright to Jonson

And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence, to honour thee, I would not seek

For names; but call forth thund’ring Aeschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Paccuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead
To life again, to hear thy buskin tread
And shake a stage; or when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone, for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth; or since did from their ashes come.


The Pursuit of Fame

In her epistle to noble and worthy ladies, as in many of her epistles, Cavendish straightforwardly expresses her desire for fame. Cavendish states that she is not concerned that the best people like her writing, as long as a great many people do. She justifies this by linking fame to NOISE and noise to great numbers of people.

 (Jonson/Hamlet - judicious 'theatre of one'.)

Noise/Opinion:  Jonson to William Herbert - 'Jiggy' Shakespeare as 'Soul of an Ignorant Age'.

In so thick and dark an IGNORANCE, as now almost covers the AGE, I crave leave to stand near 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 Poem. I must call it so, against all NOISE of OPINION: from whose crude and airy Reports, I appeal to that great and singular Faculty of Judgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate Truth from Error.


Shakespeare and his ignorant admirers disrupted Jonson's economy of learned praise:

Men/Vir vs. Parasites: 

The COMMENDATION of good things may fall within a many,  their approbation but in a few· for the most COMMEND OUT OF AFFECTION,  selfe tickling, an easinesse, or imitation: but MEN iudge only out of *KNOWLEDGE*. That is the trying faculty. -- Jonson

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... -- Jonson on Shakespeare


 Return from Parnassus:

Gullio And, for matters of wit, oft have I sonneted it in
the commendations of her squirrel. And, very lately (I
remember that time I had a musk jerkin, laid all with gold
lace, and the rest of my furniture answerable - pretty
sleighty apparel, stood me in not long past in two hundred
pounds) - the froward fates cut her monkey's thread
asunder, and I, in the abundance of poetry, bestowed an
epitaph upon the deceased little creature!

Ingenioso : (applauding politely) I'faith, an excellent wit,
that can poetize vpon such mean subjects. Every John
Dringle can make a book in the commendations of
Temperance, against the Seven Deadly Sins; but that's a rare
wit that can make something of nothing, that can make an
epigram of a mouse, and an epitaph on a monkey.


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)


Chapman, on the Earl of Oxford - Bussy D'Ambois

 I over-tooke, comming from Italie,
In Germanie a great and famous Earle85
Of England, the most goodly fashion'd man
I ever saw; from head to foote in forme
Rare and most absolute; hee had a face
Like one of the most ancient honour'd Romanes
From whence his noblest familie was deriv'd;90
He was beside of spirit passing great,
Valiant, and learn'd, and liberall as the sunne,
Spoke and writ sweetly, or of learned subjects,
Or of the discipline of publike weales;
And t'was the Earle of Oxford: and being offer'd95
At that time, by Duke Cassimere, the view
Of his right royall armie then in field,
Refus'd it, and no foote was mov'd to stirre
Out of his owne free fore-determin'd course.
I, wondring at it, askt for it his reason,100
It being an offer so much for his honour.
Hee, all acknowledging, said t'was not fit
To take those honours that one cannot quit. (Revenge, III, iv, lines 84-104)
Ren. Twas answer'd like the man you have describ'd.
Clermont. AND YET he cast it onely in the way,105
To stay and serve the world. Nor did it fit
His owne true estimate how much it waigh'd;
FOR HEE DESPIS'D IT, and esteem'd it freer
To keepe his owne way straight, and swore that hee
Had rather make away his whole estate110
In things that crost the vulgar then he would
Be frozen up stiffe (like a Sir John Smith,
His countrey-man) in common Nobles fashions;
Affecting, as't the end of noblesse were,
Those servile observations.

Ren. It was strange. 115

Clermont. O tis a vexing sight to see a man,
OUT OF HIS WAY, to be officious,
Observant, wary, serious, and grave,
Fearefull, and passionate, insulting, raging,120
Labour with iron flailes to thresh downe feathers
Flitting in ayre.

 Oxfordian 'Invention' and Humanist 'Imitation':

Belles Lettres and Metropolitan Conversation:

...The problem of becoming genteel was that acquiring manners did not of itself give rise to taste. Tasteless persons could always mimic the dress and gestures of gentlepersons. These mock wits and would-be belles were the favorite butts of stage comedy...If taste could not be had by imitation, how was it acquired? Most readily by participating in the conversation of persons with taste until one had entered into the sensus communis of their expression. This did not mean gathering knowledge by precept. Rather, sensitivity to beauty and pleasure had to be heightened. An apperception of one's sensitivity made taste "conscious." The consciousness of taste endowed was not self-consciousness. Taste put one into accord with a style of expression. Beauty, if it were true beauty, for instance, was not personal; it was "natural" or "Attic" or "divine".

Divine Oxford - Attici:

Nicholas Hilliard's Portrait of an Unknown Man Clasping a Hand from a Cloud is much smaller than you see it here. (Unlike most pictures, miniatures generally get enlarged in reproduction). In reality its dimensions are six by five centimetres. This image, in other words, is like a lock of hair in a locket. It's an image to be hung round the neck (rather than on the wall), worn close to the body, near to the heart. And it must be some kind of love token. Though the man is unidentified, and the inscription is obscure - "Attici amoris ergo" - it has love as its middle word, and it seems to be a lady's hand that descends from the cloud to hold the gentleman's.


"Science and the Secrets of Nature"

by William Eamon

The distinguishing mark of the courtier, according to Castiglione, was grazia, or grace, "a seasoning without which all the other properties and good qualities would be of little worth."  Essentially identical with elegance, urbanity, and refinement, grace was the highest achievement of culture.  Grazia may be displayed in any action, but the key to it was an art for which Castiglione coined the term sprezzatura, a kind of smoothness and nonchalance that hides the effort that goes into a difficult performance.  However, "nonchalance" conveys only part of the meaning of sprezzatura.  The root of this untranslatable word is the verb sprezzare, meaning to SCORN or despise.  Chen Castiglione demands that the courtier act with "una certa sprezzatura" toward what is unimportant, he implies acting with an attitude of disdain and scorn for normal human limitations or physical necessities.  Castiglione put it down as a "universal rule" of courtly behavior that to achieve gracefulness one must "practice in all things a certain sprezzatura, so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it."  The more difficult the performance, the greater the possibility of manifesting sprezzatura, the art that makes what is difficult seem simple and natural.  This is why, when a courtier accomplishes an action with sprezzatura, his behavior elicits another characteristic courtly response, meraviglia, or wonder: "because everyone knows the difficulty of things that are rare and well done; wherefore facility in such things causes the greatest wonder."
Courtly virtuosity, with its feigned disregard for normal limitations and the high esteem it attached to wonderment, fostered - indeed idealized - a dilettantish approach to intellectual and cultural pursuits. The accomplished courtier did not pursue learning with the diligence of a scholar, nor play the lute like a professional, nor fight like a condottiere.  He performed everything with sprezzatura, which made his actions appear as a pastime, success as a matter of course.  *Feigning his accomplishments as natural* made the courtier seem to to be the master of himself, of society's rules, and even of physical laws.  Holding himself above the common crowd, disdaining the obvious and merely useful, he turned his curiosity toward what was obscure, rare, and "marvelous."


 Gabriel Harvey, Rhetor
On Art.

Can anyone be an artist without art? Or have you ever seen a bird flying without wings, or a horse running without feet? Or if you have seen such things, which no one else has ever seen, come, tell me please, do you hope to become a goldsmith, or a painter, or a sculptor, or a musician, or an architect, or a weaver, or any sort of artist at all without a teacher? But how much easier are all these things, than that you develop into a supreme and perfect orator without the art of public speaking. There is need of a teacher, and indeed even an excellent teacher, who might point out the springs with his finger, as it were, and carefully pass on to you the art of speaking colorfully, brilliantly, copiously. But what sort of art shall we choose? Not an art entangled in countless difficulties, or packed with meaningless arguments; not one sullied by useless [31] precepts, or disfigured by strange and foreign ones; not an art polluted by any filth, or fashioned to accord with our own will and judgment; not a single art joined and sewn together from many, like a quilt from many rags and skins (way too many rhetoricians have given this sort of art to us, if indeed one may call art that which conforms to no artistic principles). We want rather an art that is concise, precise, appropriate, lucid, accessible; one that is decorated and illuminated by precise definitions, accurate divisions, and striking illustrations, as if by flashing gems and stars; one that emerges, and in a way bursts into flower, from the speech of the most eloquent men and the best orators. Why so? Not only because brevity is pleasant, and clarity delightful, but also so that eloquence might be learned in a shorter time, and with less labor and richer results, and so that it might stand more firmly grounded, secured by deeper roots. For thus said the gifted poet in his Ars Poetica: "Whatever instruction you give, let it be brief." Why? [32] He gives two reasons: "So that receptive minds might swiftly grasp your words and accurately retain them." And indeed, as the same poet elegantly adds: "Everything superfluous spills from a mind that's full."

But those annual whistles and shouts I hear indicate that almost all, or at least the greater part of my auditors are newcomers, who do not understand what they should do or whom they should imitate, but who nonetheless are captivated by the splendor of rhetoric, and seek to be orators. Therefore I will now, if I am able, reveal those things and place them all in their view, in such a way that they might seem to see them with their eyes, and almost hold them in their hands. In the meantime I pray you, most eloquent and refined gentlemen, either withdraw, if you like, or with the kindness that you've shown so far hear me as I recite some precepts so common as to be almost elementary. And from those whose tongues and ears Cicero alone inhabits, I beg forgiveness, if by chance I let drop in my haste a word that is un-Ciceronian. We cannot all be Longeuils and Cortesis: [9] some of us don't want to be. As for those who study more Latin authors, but only the best and choicest, and who to accompany Cicero, the foremost of all, add Caesar, Varro, Sallust, Livy, Seneca, Terence too, and Plautus and Vergil and Horace, I am sure they will be sympathetic to me. For reading as I do many works by many authors, sometimes even the poets, as Crassus bids in Cicero, I cannot guarantee that in so impromptu an oration I will not use a word not found in a Ciceronian phrase book.

But those little CROWS and APES of Cicero were long ago driven from the stage by the hissing and laughter of the learned, as they so well deserved, and at last have almost vanished; and I now hope to find not only eager and attentive auditors, but friendly spectators as well, not the sort who scrupulously weigh every individual detail on the scales of their own refined tastes, but who interpret everything in a fair and good-natured way. I too in fact wanted, if I was able--but perhaps I was not--to speak in as Ciceronian a style as the Ciceronianest of them all. [10] Forgive me, illustrious Ciceronians, if I ought not use that word in the superlative.

Greene's Groatsworth:

With thee I ioyne yong Iuuenall, that byting Satyrist, that lastlie with mee together writ a Comedie. Sweete boy, might I aduise thee, be aduisde, and get not many enemies by bitter wordes: inueigh against vaine men, for thou canst do it, no man better, no man so wel: thou hast a libertie to reprooue all, and none more; for one being spoken to, all are offended, none being blamed no man is iniured. Stop shallow water still running, it will rage, or tread on a worme and it will turne: then blame not Schollers vexed with sharpe lines, if they reproue thy too much libertie of reproofe.

And thou no lesse deseruing than the other two, in some things rarer, in nothing inferiour; driuen (as my selfe) to extreme shifts, a little haue I to say to thee: and were it not an idolatrous oth, I would sweare by sweet S. George, thou art vnworthy better hap, sith thou dependest on so meane a stay. Base minded men all three of you, if by my miserie ye be not warned: for vnto none of you (like me) sought those burres to cleaue: those Puppets (I meane) that speake from our mouths, those Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange that I, to whom they al haue beene beholding: is it not like that you, to whome they all haue beene beholding, shall (were yee in that case that I am now) bee both at once of them forsaken? Yes, trust them not: for there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey. O that I might intreate your rare wits to be imploied in more profitable courses: & let those Apes imitate your past excellence, and neuer more acquaint them with your admired inuentions. I know the best husband of you all will neuer proue an Usurer, and the kindest of them all will neuer seeke you a kind nurse: yet whilest you may, seeke you better Maisters; for it is pittie men of such rare wits, should be subiect to the pleasure of such rude groomes.

In this I might insert two more, that both haue writ against these buckram Gentlemen: but let their owne works serue to witnesse against their owne wickednesse, if they perseuere to mainteine any more such peasants. For other new-commers, I leaue them to the mercie of these painted monsters, who (I doubt not) will driue the best minded to despise them: for the rest, it skils not though they make a ieast at them.

English Ciceronianism/Empty Formalism - words over matter (English Seneca - What is the matter?)


Gabriel Harvey to Oxford:

I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea,
even more English verses are extant;
thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses of France and Italy,
but hast learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries.
It was not for nothing that STURMIUS ,  himself was visited by thee;
neither in France, Italy, nor Germany are any such cultivated and polished men. 


Cynthia's Revels, Jonson


 ...For, let your Soul be as-
sur'd of this (in any rank, or profession whatever) the
more general, or major part of Opinion goes with the
Face, and (simply) respects nothing else. Therefore,
if that can be made exactly, curiously, exquisitely,
thorowly, it is enough:

 An Art that showes th' IDEA of his mind -- John Davies, Orchestra


The Droeshout as the IDEA (Form, Figure) of Shakespeare/Oxford
Character to be read in his Front

Jonson, _Every Man in his Humour_

wrong not the quality of your desert, with looking
downward, Couz; but hold up your Head, so: and
let the IDEA of what you are, be portray'd i' your FACE,
that Men may read i' your Physnomy, (Here, within
this place is to be seen the TRUE, RARE, and accomplish'd MONSTER, or
MIRACLE of Nature, which is all one.) 

(this Man! So grac’d, gilded, or (to use a more fit Metaphor) so tin-foiled by Nature, as not ten Housewives Pewter (again’ a good time) shows more bright to the world than he!)


John Beaumont , Jonsonus Virbius

...Twas he that found (plac'd) in the seat of wit,
DULL grinning IGNORANCE, and banish'd it;
He on the prostituted stage appears
To make men hear, not by their eyes, but ears;
Who painted virtues, that each one might know,
And point the man, that did such treasure owe :
So that who could in JONSON'S lines be high
Needed not honours, or a riband buy ;
But vice he only shewed us in a glass,
Which by reflection of those rays that pass,
Retains the figure lively, set before,
And that withdrawn, reflects at us no more;
So, he observ'd the like decorum, when
*He whipt the vices, and yet spar'd the men* :
When heretofore, the Vice's only note,
And sign from virtue was his party-coat;
When devils were the last men on the stage,
And pray'd for plenty, and the PRESENT AGE. 


Cecil Papers 99/150 (bifolium, 278mm x 168mm), Oxford to Cecil; 25, 27 April 1603 

[I] cannot but finde a greate gryefe in [.] my selfe, to remember the mistres whiche we have loste vnder whome boothe yow and my selfe frome owre grenest yeares have bene in a manner brought vp. and althowghe yt hathe pleased god, after an earthlye kyngdome to take her vp into a more permanent and hevenlye state, wherin I doo not dought but she ys crowned wythe glorye, and to gyve vs a prince wyse, lerned, and inryched wythe all vertues, yet the longe tyme whyche we spent in her seruice, we cannot loke for so muche left of owre dayes, as to bestowe vpone an other, neyther the longe aquayntance, and kynd familiarites, wherwythe she dyd vse vs, we are not ever to expect frome an other prince, as denyed by the infermite of age, and common course of reasone. In thys common shypwrake, myne ys aboue all the reste. whoo least regarded, thowghe often comforted, of all her followers, she hathe left to trye my fortune amonge the alterationes of tyme, [fortune] and chaunce, eyther wythe owt sayle wherby to take the aduantage of any prosperous gale, or wythe [+out] anker to ryde tyll the storme be over paste. Ther ys nothinge therfore lefte to my comfort, but the excellent vertues, and diepe wisdome wherwythe god hathe indued owre new master, and soueraygne Lord, whoo doothe not come amongst vs as a stranger but as a naturall prince, succedinge by ryght of bludd, and inhaeritance, not as a conqueror, but as the trwe shepperd of Chrystes floke to cherishe and comfort them.

Wherfore I most ernestlye desyre yow of thys fauowre, as I have wrytten before, that I may be informed frome yow concernynge thes poyntes, and thus recommendinge my self vnto yow I take my leave.

Yowre assured friende and vnfortunat Brother in Lawe

(signed) E. Oxenford (ital.; 4+7)      

[Gentle breath of yours my sails/ Must fill]



Now my charms are all o'erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got

And pardoned the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell,

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands.

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please. Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardoned be,

Let your indulgence set me free.

Courtier's project - to please

Embracing Oblivion:

 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.

 Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne:

I Wonder how that Person you mention in your Letter, could either have the Conscience, or Confidence to Dispraise Shakespear's Playes, as to say they were made up onely with Clowns, Fools, Watchmen, and the like; But to Answer that Person, though Shakespear's Wit will Answer for himself, I say, that it seems by his Judging, or Censuring, he Understands not Playes, or Wit; for to Express Properly, Rightly, Usually, and Naturally, a Clown's, or Fool's Humour, Expressions, Phrases, Garbs, Manners, Actions, Words, and Course of Life, is as Witty, Wise, Judicious, Ingenious, and Observing, as to Write and Express the Expressions, Phrases, Garbs, Manners, Actions, Words, and Course of Life, of Kings and Princes; and to Express Naturally, to the Life, a Mean Country Wench, as a Great Lady, a Courtesan, as a Chast Woman, a Mad man, as a Man in his right Reason and Senses, a Drunkard, as a Sober man, a Knave, as an Honest man, and so a Clown, as a Well-bred man, and a Fool, as a Wise man; nay, it Expresses and Declares a Greater Wit, to Express, and Deliver to Posterity, the Extravagancies of Madness, the Subtilty of Knaves, the Ignorance of Clowns, and the Simplicity of Naturals, or the Craft of Feigned Fools, than to Express Regularities, Plain Honesty, Courtly Garbs, or Sensible Discourses, for 'tis harder to Express Nonsense than Sense, and Ordinary Conversations, than that which is Unusual; and 'tis Harder, and Requires more Wit to Express a Jester, than a Grave Statesman; yet Shakespear did not want Wit, to Express to the Life all Sorts of Persons, of what Quality, Profession, Degree, Breeding, or Birth soever; nor did he want Wit to Express the Divers, and Different Humours, or Natures, or Several Passions in Mankind; and so Well he hath Express'd in his Playes all Sorts of Persons, as one would think he had been Transformed into every one of those Persons he hath Described; and as sometimes one would think he was Really himself the Clown or Jester he Feigns, so one would think, he was also the King, and Privy Counsellor; also as one would think he were Really the Coward he Feigns, so one would think he were the most Valiant, and Experienced Souldier; Who would not think he had been such a man as his Sir Iohn Falstaff? and who would not think he had been Harry the Fifth? & certainly Iulius Cæsar, Augustus Cæsar, and Antonius, did never Really Act their parts Better, if so Well, as he hath Described them, and I believe that Antonius and Brutus did not Speak Better to the People, than he hath Feign'd them; nay, one would think that he had been Metamorphosed from a Man to a Woman, for who could Describe Cleopatra Better than he hath done, and many other Females of his own Creating, as Nan Page, Mrs. Page, Mrs. Ford, the Doctors Maid, Bettrice, Mrs. Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, and others, too many to Relate? and in his Tragick Vein, he Presents Passions so Naturally, and Misfortunes so Probably, as he Peirces the Souls of his Readers with such a True Sense and Feeling thereof, that it Forces Tears through their Eyes, and almost Perswades them, they are Really Actors, or at least Present at those Tragedies. Who would not Swear he had been a Noble Lover, that could Woo so well? and there is not any person he hath Described in his Book, but his Readers might think they were Well acquainted with them; indeed Shakespear had a Clear Judgment, a Quick Wit, a Spreading Fancy, a Subtil Observation, a Deep Apprehension, and a most Eloquent Elocution; truly, he was a Natural Orator, as well as a Natural Poet, and he was not an Orator to Speak Well only on some Subjects, as Lawyers, who can make Eloquent Orations at the Bar, and Plead Subtilly and Wittily in Law-Cases, or Divines, that can Preach Eloquent Sermons, or Dispute Subtilly and Wittily in Theology, but take them from that, and put them to other Subjects, and they will be to seek; but Shakespear's Wit and Eloquence was General, for, and upon all Subjects, he rather wanted Subjects for his Wit and Eloquence to Work on, for which he was Forced to take some of his Plots out of History, where he only took the Bare Designs, the Wit and Language being all his Own; and so much he had above others, that those, who Writ after him, were Forced to Borrow of him, or rather to Steal from him; I could mention Divers Places, that others of our Famous Poets have Borrow'd, or Stoln, but lest I should Discover the Persons, I will not Mention the Places, or Parts, but leave it to those that Read his Playes, and others, to find them out. I should not have needed to Write this to you, for his Works would have Declared the same Truth: But I believe, those that Dispraised his Playes, Dispraised them more out of Envy, than Simplicity or Ignorance, for those that could Read his Playes, could not be so Foolish to Condemn them, only the Excellency of them caused an Envy to them. By this we may perceive, Envy doth not Leave a man in the Grave, it Follows him after Death, unless a man be Buried in Oblivion, but if he Leave any thing to be Remembred, Envy and Malice will be still throwing Aspersion upon it, or striving to Pull it down by Detraction. But leaving Shakespear's Works to their own Defence, and his Detractors to their Envy, and you to your better Imployments, than Reading my Letter, I rest,
Your faithful Friend
and humble Servant.


To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare -- Jonson

To draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;


--I am reading Jonson's verses to the memory of Shakespeare; an insolent, sparing, and invidious panegyric.-- John Dryden