Thursday, January 20, 2022

Jonson's Hollow Praise - Raising an Empty Monument in the First Folio

 Jonson raised an empty/vain monument from Oxford’s ruin. Shake-speare, Ciceronianism, and Vain Affectations


vain, empty, vacant, void


figuratively groundless, baseless, meaningless

ostentatious, boastful

deceptive, untrustworthy





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;


Hebrew -Maskith – A showpiece, figure, imaginations, carved images


Empty Figures:

Soul of the age!

The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!

MY Shakespeare, RISE! (Jonson)


What needs MY Shakespeare for his honoured bones

The labour of an age in piled stones...(Milton)


"Vain Affectations": Bacon on Ciceronianism in "The Advancement of Learning"


When Francis Bacon writes that man "began to hunt more after words than matter" in The Advancement of Learning, he meant not just form and content but academic disciplines. Bacon explains that Martin Luther called for humanist educational reform to teach the laity to read and theologians and preachers to analyze Scripture. In the Strasbourg gymnasium and academy, the Protestant rector Johann Sturm went too far in substituting endless drill in the arts of discourse for other subjects. Bacon deplores Sturm's influence [my note – Harvey/Audley End speech to Oxford] on the Cambridge humanists, especially Nicholas Carr and Roger Ascham, and Ascham's celebration of the Portuguese Ciceronian Jerónimo Osorio in the Marian court. When Osorio subsequently attacked the Elizabethan religious settlement, Ascham and others dismissed his prose as Asiatic, for they had learned from the Protestant opposition to scholastic theology to identify good style with good doctrine. Bacon, seeking truth in God's Works as much as in God's Word, would place dialectic and rhetoric late in the university curriculum, contending that students who labor to perfect argument and style before they have something to say fall into "childish sophistry and ridiculous affectation." 


Imitation and Praise in the Poems of Ben Jonson

By Richard S. Peterson

...Men should, Crites says [Jonson-type character in Cynthia’s Revels], ”Studie…/An inward comelinesse…that may conforme them…/To Gods high figures, which they have in power: (V.iv.643-6; IV, 158), and this is the goal the poet holds out to his living subjects in the poems. The moral outline or shape Jonson produces is an ideal one, charged with a sense of potential, movement, and change, to which the subject ought actively to conform his soul or mind – or simply continue to conform it, in the most admirable cases – by his own efforts and with the poet’s educative help. What Jonson says in Timber of the poet’s effect on his readers – adapting Quintilian on the orator’s effect on his listeners (Inst. Orat. II.5.8) – ideally applies to praised subjects as well: he “makes their minds like the thing he writes” (ll. 792-3; VIII, 588). His Platonic (or Socratic) and stoic strategy in this respect is perhaps clearest in instances where the collaboration between the poet and the owner of the soul proves an unequal one. If he has occasionally praised his subjects too much, Jonson declares in his epistle to Selden (according to the rhetorical mode of laudando praecipere, “praising to teach”) It was “with purpose to have MADE them such” (Und. 14, l.22) Even more revealing is Jonson’s sharp complaint “To my Muse”:

Away, a leave me, thou thing most abhord,

That hast betray’d me to a worthlesse lord;

Made me commit most fierce idolatrie

To a great image through thy luxurie.

… … …

But I repent me: Stay. Who e’re is rais’d,

For worth he has not, He is tax’d, not prais’d.

[Epig. 65 1-4, 15-16]

This description recalls not only Sir Epicure Mammon’s “most fierce idolatrie” in wooing Dol Common, as he “talke[s] to her, all in gold” (Alchemist IV. i.25-39; V, 360), but the “great image” of gold, Nebuchadnezzar’s symbol, which he dreams about and sets up to be worshiped (Dan. 2:31-8, 3:1-15) Failing a response, the noble shape raised by Jonson becomes merely a “great image” hollow or inert at its core [note – as in My Shakespeare Rise!], and his worship of its potential, mere tribute paid to an idol – a strong contrast, as we shall see, to Jonson’s justifiable near-idolatry of the “full” and animated inner shapes that inhabit the cabinet which is Uvedale.note -

The sense of potential, of conduct as raw material from wish a shapely life of soul should be fashioned and raises like a statue, is forcefully conveyed in Jonson’s epistle to Sir Edward Sacvile (Und. 13). There the poet shows an accumulated “heape” of virtuous manners being effortfully raised to “stand” as a triumphal arch, which is then metamorphosed, as we watch, into the implied human figure of a colossus, a “wonder” of the world and a landmark (“marke”) or “note” of virtue:

‘Tis by degrees that men arrive at glad

Profit in ought; each day some little adde,

In time ‘twill be a heape; This is not true

Alone in money, but in manners too.

Yet we must more than move still, or goe on,

We must accomplish; ‘Tis the last Key-stone

That makes the Arch. The rest that there were put

Are nothing till that comes to bind and shut.

Then stands it a triumphal marke! Then Men

Observe the strength, the height, the why, and when,

It was erected; and still walking under

Meet some new matter to looke up and wonder!

Such Notes are virtuous men.

The parallel we have traced earlier between the need to gather in and transform in conduct as in literary activity holds true here. In describing how the individual soul fashions its heaped stock of manners into a towering form of virtue, the poet himself accumulates a generous heap of material from Plutarch (and from Hesiod, whose heap of money Plutarch has turned to a heap of virtue) and transforms the whole by adding a keystone from Seneca (Epist. 118, secs. 16-17): “one stone makes an archway – the stone which wedges the leaning sides and hold the arch together by its position in the middle. … Some things, through development, put off their former shape and are *altered into a new figure*” (quaedam processu priorem exuunt formam et in novam transeunt).  [note – biformis vates?)

Indeed, Jonson’s works abound with “heapes.” These are admirable enough when they indicate bounty or a plentiful supply of raw material to be shaped. This in Jonson’s masque The Gypsies Metmorphos’d (1621), King James, on approaching the country house  of the Duke of Buckingham, is invited to “enter here/ The house your bountie hath built, and still doth reare/ With those highe favors, and those heap’d increases: (ll. 11-13; VII, 565). And in a brief later elegy (Und. 63) Jonson consoles King Charles and his Queen for the loss of their firstborn by a reminder that “God, whose essence is so infinite, /Cannot but heape that grace, he will requite.” But on most occasions, heaps serve as symbols of inert material which is unable to stand or empty of animating, shaping spirit – the very antithesis of Jonson’s ideal. [Men stand, heaps ‘rise’?) A nameless, vicious courtier is “A parcel of Court-durt, a heape, and masse/ Of all vice hurld together” Und. 21), hardly distinguishable from the excrement in Fleet Ditch, “heap’d like a usurers masse” (“On the Famous Voyage,” Epig. 133, l.139); whole a lord fond of flatter is “follow’d with that heape/ That watch, and catch, at what they may applaud” (Und. 15, ll. 156-7). The healthy gathering instinct Jonson describes in the epistle to Sacvile is in sharp contrast to the hoarding of substance, unanimated by any generous impulse, described in the epistle to Sir Robert Wroth: “ Let that goe heape a masse of wretched wealth,/……/And brooding o’re it sit, with broades eyes,/Not doing good, scarce when he dyes: (For. 3, ll. 81-4). A house, too, lacking an indwelling owner, like a body without a soul, becomes a mere heap…(snip)

If the repugnance of the inert “heap” lies in its resistance to shaping, its lack of any inner impulse that could raise it to stand, conversely it is possible to stand and yet be hollow. Consider Jonson’s startling picture (Und.44) of the ruined form of virtue, unhoused and dispossessed, beseechingly holding up her broken “Armes” (in an evocation of a defaced antique statue combined with a deft pun on the military target of the satire, the refusal of contemporary nobility to bear arms) to the empty “moulds” which have cast her out:

I may no longer on these picture stay,

These Carkasses of honour; Taylors blocks,

Cover’d with Tissue, whose prosperitie mocks

The fate of things: whilst totter’d virtue holds

Her broken Armes up, to the EMPTIE moulds. [ll. 98-102]

Other forms, empty yet nevertheless ambulatory, are seen moving woodenly through the world of the Epigrammes. Of “English Mounsieur” (Epig. 88), with his Frenchified attire, the poet remarks: “is it some french statue? No: ‘T doth move,/ And stoupe, and cringe. O then, it needs must prove/ The new French tailors motion [puppet], monthly made, /Daily to turned in PAULS, and helpe the trade”(…)


Casting down imaginations:

2 Corinthians 

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God


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. 



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...  


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...


Gabriel Harvey's Orations on Rhetoric. H. S. Wilson

In the late 1570’s, Gabriel Harvey turned away from Ciceronians such as Sturm and Ascham (with caveats):

The great authorities in dialectic and rhetoric of Sturm and his followers were Cicero, Aristotle and HERMOGENES [the POLISHER]. [Harvey had noted ‘polished’ Oxford’s visit to Sturm in his Audley End Address to the Earl.]

Harvey – Oration to undergraduates of Cambridge

Do not fall into the Scythian swamp of Hermogenes, that endless and pretentiously vain art, concerning which it is recorded that Hermogenes was so elaborately ingenious he prided himself on being able to include countless figures and other rhetorical subtleties in one and the same period. In which vain labor no few men of our time toil – men in other respects not to be despised, though unfortunately there are increasing numbers of them, especially of those whom your teacher Harvey is wont to call PHILOGRECIANS and PSEUDO-STRASSBURGERS [my note - Sturm/Strasbourg], and whom I would term pseudo-Hermogenes, alias sophist, pseudo-rhetoricians or even rhetorical chameleons: they are not so much nourished with food as saturated with wind and rhetorical hot-air. In truth, through their subtleties, *they make themselves more and more obscure until they gradually disappear in mere inanity*: they have no worse enemies than themselves.



Definition of inane (Merriam Webster)

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1: lacking SIGNIFICANCE meaning, or point : SILLY inane comments



Castigating Courtiers in Cynthia’s Revels: Crites/Criticus/Jonson 


How are thy painted beauties doted on,

By LIGHT and EMPTY IDIOTS how pursu'd

With open and extended Appetite!

How they do sweat, and run themselves from breath,

RAIS’D on their Toes, to catch thy AIRY FORMS,

Still turning GIDDY, till they reel like Drunkards,

That buy the merry madness of one hour,

With the long irksomness of following time!

O how despis'd and base a thing is a Man,

If he not strive t'erect his groveling Thoughts

Above the strain of Flesh! But how more cheap,

When, even his best and understanding Part,

(The crown and strength of all his Faculties)

Floats like a dead drownd Body, on the Stream

Of vulgar humour, mixt with common'st dregs?

I suffer for their Guilt now, and my Soul

(Like one that looks on ill-affected Eyes)

Is hurt with mere intention on their Follies.

Why will I view them then? my sense might ask me:

Or is't a rarity, or some new object,

That strains my strict observance to this Point?

O would it were, therein I could afford

My Spirit should draw a little neer to theirs,

To gaze on novelties: so Vice were one.

Tut, she is stale, rank, foul, and were it not

That those (that woo her) greet her with lockt Eyes,

(In spight of all the impostures, paintings, drugs,

Which her Bawd custom dawbs her Cheeks withal)

She would betray her loath'd and leprous Face,

And fright th' enamour'd dotards from themselves:

But such is the perverseness of our nature,

That if we once but fancy levity,

(How antick and ridiculous so ere

It sute with us) yet will our muffled thought

Choose rather not to see it, than avoid it:

And if we can but banish our own sense,

We act our mimick tricks with that free license,

That lust, that pleasure, that security,

As if we practis'd in a Paste-board Case,

And no one saw the motion, but the motion.

Well, check thy passion, lest it grow too lowd:

"While fools are pittied, they wax FAT and proud


Psalm 73:7

Their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than heart could wish; and the imaginations of their minds overflow [with follies].



TO you whose depth of soule measures the height,

And all dimensions of all WORKES of WEIGHT,

REASON being ground, structure and ornament,

To all inuentions, graue and permanent,

And your cleare eyes the Spheres where REASON moues;

This Artizan, this God of RATIONALL loues

Blind Homer;


TRUE learning hath a body absolute,

That in apparant sence it selfe can suite,

Not hid in ayrie termes as if it were

Like spirits fantastike that put men in feare,

And are but bugs form'd in their fowle conceites,

Nor made forsale glas'd with sophistique sleights;

But wrought for all times proofe, strong to bide prease,

And shiuer ignorants like Hercules,


AN EMPTY PEN with their owne OWNE STUFF applied

CAN BLOT THEM OUT: so shall their wealth-burst wombes

Be made with emptie Penne their honours tombes. 


Milton, _Paradise Lost Book V_ 

But know that in the Soule

Are many lesser Faculties that serve

REASON as chief; among these FANSIE next

Her office holds; of all external things,

Which the five watchful Senses represent,

She forms Imaginations, Aerie shapes,

Which Reason joyning or disjoyning, frames

All what we affirm or what deny, and call

Our knowledge or opinion; then retires

Into her private Cell when Nature rests.

Oft in her absence MIMIC FANSIE wakes

To imitate her; but misjoyning shapes,

WILDE WORK produces oft, and most in dreams,

Ill matching words and deeds long past or late.

Som such resemblances methinks I find

Of our last Eevnings talk, in this thy dream,

But with addition strange; yet be not sad.

Evil into the mind of God or Man

May come and go, so unapprov'd, and leave

No spot or blame behind:


English Seneca:

...Sidney, like Seneca, belonged to a noble (although impoverished) line and lived the life of a courtier depending on the support of a monarch whose favors were fickle. The image that his contemporaries created of Sidney is in important ways like the one that Seneca had tried to create for himself, that of a man who sought “to make himself and others, not in words or opinion, but in life and action, good and great” (Dedication 12.7-7). Sidney appears to have had for the  the curriculum at Oxford the same scorn that Seneca had expressed for its essentially Roman model: It teaches words rather than things. In a letter to his brother Robert, Sidney wrote: “So yow can speake and write Latine not barbarously I never require great study in Ciceronianisme the cheife abuse of Oxford, Qui dum verba sectantur, res ipsas negligunt”* (Works, 3). Seneca likewise had condemned both the philological (Ep.88.3-4) and rhetorical (Ep.100.10) focus on words at the expense of subject: Sic ista ediscamus, ut quae fuerint verba, sint opera (Ep. 108.35). [Let us learn those things so that what have been words might become works].

* where, while they eagerly pursue words, they neglect things themselves. (note matter vs. Manner debate which had broken out among the Humanists.)


Cynthia’s Revels, Jonson

P R O L O G U E.

F gracious silence, sweet attention, 

 Quick sight, and quicker apprehension,

(The lights of Judgments throne) shine any where;

Our doubtful Author hopes this is their Sphere.

And therefore opens he himself to those;

To other weaker Beams his labours close:

As loth to prostitute their Virgin strain,

To ev'ry vulgar and adult'rate Brain,

In this alone, his Muse her sweetness hath,

She shuns the print of any beaten Path; 

And proves new ways to come to learned Ears:

Pied ignorance she neither loves nor, fears.

Nor hunts she after popular Applause,

Or fomy praise, that drops from common Jaws:

The Garland that she wears, their bands must twine,

Who can both censure, understand, define

What merit is: Then cast those piercing Rays,

Round as a Crown, instead of honour'd Bays,

About his Poesie; which (he knows) affords

Words, above action: MATTER, above WORDS. 




Hobbes's sense of his place in cultural history is key to understanding the character and the contradictions of Leviathan. Early and late in his long writing career, he represents his philosophical life as a battle against monstrous texts. De cive's "Preface to the Reader" narrates a Hobbesian myth of the fall, in which a golden age of power and authority enjoyed by sovereigns is destroyed by the "disputations" of private men. 1 To illustrate his point, Hobbes cites the classical fable of Ixion's adulterous courtship of Juno: "Offering to embrace her, he clasped a cloud; from whence the Centaurs proceeded, by nature half men, half horses, a fierce, a fighting, and unquiet generation" (2:xiii). His allegorization of the fable is Baconian both in its method -- its derivation of philosophical truths from mythology -- and in its attribution of the origins of political sedition to seditious language and seditious desires: "private men being called to councils of state, desired to prostitute justice, the only sister and wife of the supreme, to their own judgments and apprehensions; but embracing a false and empty shadow instead of it, they have begotten those hermaphrodite opinions of moral philosophers, partly right and comely, partly brutal and wild"


Hobbes is fond of metaphors of the monstrous, and his employment of them, especially in crucial accounts of his own vocational ambitions, is recurrent and revealing. His claim to having spent a career battling the metaphorical monsters of false systems of knowledge complements his lifelong attacks, I will argue, against the monsters of metaphor. Viewed from a broad historical perspective, Hobbes's attack stands as one characteristic, albeit especially fierce, expression of hostility to metaphor on the part of the seventeenth century's new philosophers. Monsters, as marvels of nature, have their verbal counterparts in metaphors, the marvels of speech. As Paul de Man argues, within metaphors, as inside the most violent catachreses, "something monstrous lurks." 4 (The very word catachresis means an "abuse" of language.) Metaphors can appear dangerous, even monstrous, because "they are capable of inventing the most fantastic entities by dint of the positional power inherent in language. They can dismember the texture of reality and reassemble it in the most capricious of ways, pairing man with woman or human being with beast in the most unnatural shapes." 5 As a consequence, de Man argues, metaphor has been "a perennial problem and, at times, a recognized source of embarrassment for philosophical discourse." 6 That embarrassment becomes especially acute during the seventeenth century because of metaphor's association with subjective imagination, passion, and the monstrous, with all that contrasts with objective judgment, reason, and the natural. As a result, the opposition between the literal and the figural underlies many of the crucial polarities of the century's discourse: the divide between truth and falsehood, natural philosophy and poetry, philosophical discourse and rhetoric, to name only a few. 7 Especially in the civil war years, a hostility to metaphor becomes acute, too, because as a monstrous rebel to linguistic law, metaphor is associated with the monstrous rebels of mob rule. To attack metaphor is to attack the monstrous mother of all seditious philosophies, and a monstrous breeder of sedition itself. 


Cato, the Censor:

Rem tene, verba sequentur. 

Grasp the subject, the words will follow.


Fulke Greville, Chief Sidneian, Hereditary Recorder of Stratford upon Avon

Who worship Fame, commit Idolatry,

Make Men their God, Fortune and Time their worth,

Forme, but reforme not, meer hypocrisie,

By shadowes, onely shadowes bringing forth,

Which must, as blossomes, fade ere true fruit springs,

 (Like voice, and eccho) ioyn'd; yet diuers things. 


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).


Steven May, _The Elizabethan Courtier Poets_

The New Lyricism

During the 1570's a body of courtier verse emerged that revived the emphasis upon love poetry as it had been introduced to the Tudor court by Wyatt and Surrey. Upon this revitalized foundation, amorous courtier poetics *developed without interruption to the end of the reign and beyond*. Unlike courtier verse of the 1560's, the new lyricism modeled itself primarily upon post-classical continental authors, from Petrarch to the Pl?iade. Attention to the classics remained strong, of course, but the ancients were assimilated into the new poetics almost exclusively in the vernacular. The courtier's immediate experience is often reflected in this poetry, although the exact circumstances behind it cannot always be identified, nor does this later work necessarily grow out of actual experience. From a literary standpoint this is perhaps the most important shift away from the trends of the 1560's. Subsequent courtier verse placed a greater emphasis upon artifice in its treatment of occasional subjects, while it increasingly strayed away from real events as the most respectable inducements for writing poetry. The movement was toward fiction and the creation of poems to be valued for their own sake, not merely for their commemorative function. As courtier poets ventured anew into the realms of fiction, they made possible once again the creation of a genuine literature of the court. Progress toward a golden age of lyricism was slow, especially with regard to form and the technical aspects of composition, but the shift in direction occurred suddenly during the period between roughly 1570 and 1575.

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 [my note – abundantly flowing] 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)


Vickers, Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy:

...Of the hundreds of writers who followed Quintilian and Erasmus in reiterating the greater importance of the subject-matter [note-matter over manner], let us just recall Sir Philip Sidney's letter to his younger brother Robert on 18 October,1580, advising him on his studies. 'For the method of writing Historie', Sidiney tells him, 'Bodin hath written at large; you may reede him and gather out of many wordes some matter' - a fatal sign of verbosity. That was obviously a current danger for a young student, given the stylistic fashions then in vogue: 'So you can speake and write Latine not barbarously I never require great study in Ciceronianisme, the cheife abuse of Oxford, Qui dum verba sectantur, res ipsas negligunt'.[who, in their application to words, neglect the things themselves.]

It is from this basis that Gabriel Harvey compared the style of Osorio's oration De gloria unfavourably with that of Cicero's De amicitia, bringing out the difference between the redundancy of Osorius and the COPIOUSNESS of Cicero. Both men have fluent diction, to be sure; but whereas Cicero's flows without any ripples, like a smooth and quiet river, Osorio's sometimes overflows its banks, like a swollen, hurrying torrent, too impatient to be confined within the bounds set by the other.

In ascribing copia to Cicero, redundantia to Osorio, Harvey was doubtless aware that Quintilian described the latter as a vice of style (Institutio oratoria VIII.3.57; XII.10.12-19). Harvey's criticism of Osorio was reinforced in the prefatory epistle to his Ciceronianus by William Lewin, a fellow of Christ's College and perhaps Harvey's tutor, who judged it 'a little more copious and overflowing than was proper'.

Returning to Bacon's critique of Ciceronianism we can now see that it is entirely typical of Renaissance rhetorical humanism in its conceptual categories and in the judgements resulting. His characterization of Osorio - 'Then grew the flowing and watery vein of...the Portugal bishop to be in price' - might have come straight from the pages of Harvey's Ciceronianus. At all events J.W. Binns, in his recent study of 'Ciceronianism in sixteenth-century England: the Latin debate', finds that Bacon's account of 'the growth and progress of a Ciceronianism which paid more attention to style than to just and perceptive', while his 'use of the term "watery" to describe [Osorio's style] is this in the mainstream of critical thinking. In evoking this fashion of writing Bacon perhaps echoes Harvey's self-mocking description of the care for superficial qualities of style that marked his juvenile flirtation with Ciceronianism, but he goes on further in juxtaposing both the vices and virtues of style. He begins with a plain statement of the disease, in the appropriate language, when care for verba exceeds that for res. Then he enlarges this simple distinction into two unequal parts, first showing how the mimicry of Ciceronian Latin developed a self-propagating power (redundantia), proliferating before our eyes:

men began to hunt more after words than matter--more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the SWEET falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment.

Those bare, unadorned symmetries in the second part of the sentence sum up pages of teaching from the rhetoric-books on the main virtues of style for which the orator should strive: 'weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgement.' That is surely the definitive expression of what the distinction between res and verba really implied. Bacon's concluding antithesis, then - 'the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards COPIE than WEIGHT' - is not an attack on COPIA, tout court, but describes what happens when writers cultivate COPIA VERBORUM in separation from COPIA RERUM, resulting in that disordered condition 'when men study words and not matter'. The terms in which Bacon formulates his critique of Ciceronian imitatio are not critical of, but derive from the rhetorical tradition, from Cato to Quintilian. His dismissive flourish, comparing their enamoration with words to Pygmalion's madness in falling in love with the stature he has made, unites a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses with part of Aristotle's definition of language, and unlikely combination for a modern perhaps, but wholly typical of humanist eclecticism, where all quotations are equally useful.


Copia – abundant FLOW

Ben Jonson: "I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, 'Would he had blotted a thousand,' which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this but for their ignorance, who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candor, for I loved the man, and do honor his memory on this side idolatry as much as any. 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 stopped. 'Sufflaminandus erat,' as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too. 


On Shakespeare" - Milton

What needs my Shakespeare 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?

Dear son of memory, great heir of Fame,

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 whil'st to th' shame of slow-endeavoring art

Thy easie numbers FLOW...


Idolatrous Italianate Ciceronians:

Homosociality, Imitation, and Gendered Reading in Robert Greene's Ciceronis Amor

Kevin L Gustafson. Philological Quarterly

...Gabriel Harvey provides a particularly illuminating example of this argument because he was a contemporary (though hardly a friend) of Greene, and because his Ciceronianus (1577) offers a brief history of Ciceronian debates up to the middle of the sixteenth century, even while presenting the author as a repentant idolater.47 Harvey follows Jerome's letter in confessing to a prodigality in which he "virtually preferred to be elected to the company of the Ciceronians rather than to that of the saints."48 But now, having digested the arguments of the anti-Ciceronians Erasmus and Peter RAMUS, he claims to have a more balanced view. Cicero is still "the eldest son and indeed heir of Eloquence," and thus most worthy of imitation, but one who also has faults and is best imitated when exceeded.49 For Harvey, as for Ramus, true imitation like true friendship is an exercise dedicated to appreciating and cultivating "all of his virtues and conduct and character [virtutisfundamentuni], rather than merely mimicking affect or style.50 Here again rhetorical imitation bears a striking resemblance to the appreciation and cultivation of virtue in theories of friendship, and the Elizabethan scholar casts this transformation in language directly reminiscent of Quintilian's characterization of imitation as a kind of desire: "To me Cicero was always Cicero, and eloquence, eloquence; but now more than ever my mind, fired with unprecedented ardor and love, not merely expects but promises something greater than Cicero in Cicero himself."51 The reformed Harvey will take what is best from a variety of sources and, following Erasmus and Ramus, redefine "Ciceronian" so that it refers not exclusively to the orator but instead to any writing that is "excellent and in conformity with the most careful usage of speech and thought."52 Harvey's journey of rhetorical reformation traverses a gap between what he elsewhere calls "CURIOUS universall scholars" and "superficial humanists,"53 or the broadly educated orator versus the less-desirable rhetor, who is "highly trained and polished in the single faculty of eloquent speech."54 There is throughout Harvey's work a tension between SCHOLARSHIP and COURTIERSHIP, and in a quite telling move he characterizes the singular concern with style as a KIND OF EFFEMINACY, derisively saying, "Let the little ladies hold sway in the classroom."55 Harvey's ability to police imitation through gender categories only underscores the pervasive and largely tacit homosociality of the work. The Ciceronianus, like the Rhetor that immediately followed it, began as a university lecture in Latin addressed to students as well as fellow scholars, and both treatises were dedicated to academic friends.

Ciceronis Amor initially may seem far removed from Harvey's academic polemics. Yet Greene's fiction is equally concerned with the twin discourses of friendship and imitation- *equally concerned to mark proper and improper ways of loving Ciceronian eloquence*.


The letter that Cicero writes on behalf of Lentulus (57-58), and that Greene subsequently translates for his English readers, is the central document in this drama of rhetorical desire. Relihan adduces this episode of women reading as singular evidence that Ciceronis Amor advocates the antimisogynist position that women are just as capable as men of participating in humanist culture. On closer inspection, the scene appears much more ambivalent in its attitude towards women readers. The letter is of course a common feature of amatory writing, and Greene here no doubt expected his audience to have Ovid in mind. Nor is there anything particularly unusual about two Roman ladies reading Latin, which is of course their native tongue. What is striking is that, much like the Ciceronian derided by Harvey, they respond foremost, even exclusively, to its style, the pleasing surface that may lead to but does not necessarily correspond to Ciceronian virtue. Flavia first correctly attributes the letter to Cicero based on its style. Terentia, however, goes no further, as she becomes enflamed with desire for a man she has never met: "Ah Tullie, sweete Tullie, from whose mouth flows mélodie more enchaunting then the sirens" (66). Greene has already referred to the Sirens to suggest the dangers of other-sex desire, sensuality that Parker associates with not only woman's body but also woman's speech. Here the reference indicates a particularly sensual way of reading, and as such highlights a disjunction-between Cicero's motives for eloquence and Terentia's reception of it-that is even more noticeable later in the story, when he tries to persuade Terentia to accept Lentulus: "This discourse of Tully did but sette Terentias herte more on fire. For hearing the pleasant harmony of hir Cicero, shee likt of the musicke as of the Syrens melody, and so entangled her selfe with many newe conceived fancies" (102). Rhetoric here is in a profound sense at cross-purposes for the two characters. Cicero's act of writing the letter exemplifies the ideal that true eloquence is subordinated to virtue, in this case the devotion and self-sacrifice that, in De amicitia, characterize true friendship. Her emotional reception of it, by contrast, resembles the stylistic infatuation of the idolatrous Italianate Ciceronian and looks forward to the stereotype of the mad and oversexed woman reader of Jacobean city comedy.62



Amorphus/Oxford. ... (emphasis on expression - manner over matter)

For, let your Soul be assur'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.


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

I can refell that Paradox of those, which hold the face to be the Index of the minde, which (I assure you) is not so, in any politique creature:[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. [my note – disproportionate Droeshout]


Gendered Style:

Jonson - Timber

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

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


"Style is the man":

The Virility of Conversation

What is the relationship between the classical proposition that a man's literary style must be like his life and the early modern investment in table talk, or conversation, as an arena for social advancement? The topic of stylistic manliness, disparaging by contrast an effeminate decay in modern oratory, is pervasive in classical literature; examples that elaborate upon it are Persius' first satire, the preface to the first book of the elder Seneca's declamations, and the younger Seneca's 114th epistle to Lucilius. The topic was revived, in relation to both Latin and vernacular prose, by Renaissance humanists. In a brilliant recent essay, Patricia Parker has analyzed the literature of this revival and the way in which it expresses "a desire for a more 'masculine' or virile style," a style "linked to the metaphorics of the male body in its prime." Parker deftly unpacks the key opposing terms in this debate over style: the first term is*nervus*, a word that, as well as meaning "sinewy" or muscular, also connoted the male sexual member; and the second is *mollis*, "soft," a word associated in Roman culture both with women and with the male "pathic," the man who desired to be penetrated by other men. One of her objectives in discussing this "massively influential Latin tradition" is to engage with the gender politics of what has been the central contention of prose studies of the English Renaissance - that is, the argument that a seventeenth-century reaction against the Ciceronian excesses of sixteenth-century English prose pave the way for the rise of a scientific "plain style." If the concept of stylistic virility is above all marked by a certain conflation of body and language, however, a rather different historical development might come to mind as its more probable outcome. I am thinking of the well-attested emergence, in the early modern period, of the phenomenon known as "civil conversation," according to which the arts of polite discourse become newly central to the acquisition and expression of Social status. And yet the problem for any examination of the relationship between "virile style" and "civil conversation" is, of course, that conversation (in our modern sense of informal exchanges of speech) simply cannot be recovered as a practice. Even the social historians whose work provides compelling evidence of conversation's new centrality necessarily derive their evidence from the period's theoretical literature - from conversation manuals. More perplexing, it would seem that, if there were a relationship between the prescriptive literature of early modern civil conversation and a classically derived discourse of "VIRILE STYLE" in literary prose, such a relationship could only be one of opposition. How else could the discourse Parker describes as privileging deeds over words, and disparaging linguistic excess as effeminate, coexist with a conduct literature that makes manliness (for Renaissance conversation manuals are, primarily, addressed to men) depend on the ability to converse with ease, fluency, and confidence?


Languet to Sidney, Nov 14, 1579

...Now I will treat you frankly, as I am accustomed to do, for I am sure our friendship has reached a mark at which neither of us can be offended at any freedom of the other. It was a delight to me last winter to see you high in favour and enjoying the esteem of all your countrymen; but to speak plainly, the habits of your court seemed to me somewhat less manly than I could have wished, and most of your noblemen appeared to me to seek for a reputation more by a kind of affected courtesy than by those virtues which are wholesome to the state and which are most becoming to generous spirits and to men of high birth. I was sorry therefore, and so were other friends of yours, to see you wasting the flower of your life on such things, and I feared lest that noble nature of yours should be dulled, and lest from habit you should be brought to take pleasure in pursuits which only ENERVATE the mind.

If the ARROGANCE and INSOLENCE of OXFORD has roused you from your trance, he has done you less wrong than they who have hitherto been more indulgent to you. But I return to my subject...


Effeminate/Distaff Hercules:

Reviewed work(s): Shakespeare’s Literary Authorship. Patrick Cheney. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. xxv+296.

Douglas Bruster

Cheney extends the significance of this biographical episode by reading it alongside the curious “Achilles” stanza in 1594’s The Rape of Lucrece (lines 1422–28).1 In this stanza, part of a larger sequence in which Shakespeare portrays Lucrece looking at a painting of Troy, Achilles is represented by “his spear, / Grip’d in an armed hand, himself behind / Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind” (lines 1424–26). Exploring Shakespeare’s fairly idiosyncratic attention to the spear of Achilles and its reputation for being able to both “kill and cure” (2 Henry VI  5.1.101), Cheney argues that this stanza in Lucrece is a particularly good example of a “signature” moment in Shakespeare’s works, a passage in which “Shakespeare signs his name to Achilles” (53) and in which—owing to its emphasis on an uncannily present-yet-absent figure—we can sense an emblem of Shakespearean authorship itself. To Cheney’s persuasive gathering of intertextual references for this interpretation one might add a line that his study overlooks, from John Lyly’s Alexander and Campaspe (1584)  : “Wil you handle the SPINDLE with Hercules, when you shuld SHAKE the SPEARE with Achilles?”2 If Shakespeare pushed the elements of his last name to their most playful extremes, then, he found the terms already in the Elizabethan air. 


Sidney's Womanish Man

Mark Rose

Idleness was understood to be the first shaft that 'Cupide shootethinto the hot liver of a heedlesse lover', so in desiring to give in toidleness the prince is only proving true to type. Distaff Hercules was the conventional image for just such a condition of effeminate idleness induced by passionate love. The distaff itself was an old symbol of idleness, and Sindey would have read in Amyot's Plutarch:

...that men given to idle luxury are like Hercules 'au palais royal de la royne de Lydie Omphale, vestu d'une cotte de demoiselle, se laissant souffletter & tresser aux filles & femmes de la Royne'.

'WIL you handle the spindle with Hercules, when you should SHAKE the SPEARE with Achilles?" asks a character in Lyly's Campaspe. Barnaby Rich states that lascivious women have made 'valiant men effeminate, as Hercules'. And Robert Burton uses 'Herculean Love' as an uncomplimentary epithet for passionate love. Sidney's own contempt for distaff Hercules is clear from the Defence of Poesie:

So in Hercules, painted with his great beard, and furious countenance, in a womans attire, spinning, at Omphales commaundement, it breedes both delight and laughter; for the representing of so straunge a power in Love, procures delight, and the scornefulness of the action, stirreth laughter. (iii. 40)


Harvey, 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.


Sidney as the substantial image of 'True Nobility":

From Moffett's _Nobilis_ or_ A View of the Life and Death of a Sidney_,

dedicated to WILLIAM HERBERT: Jan 1594 (?)

"A few, to be sure, were observed to murmur, and to envy him so great preferment; but they were men without worth or virtue, who considered the public welfare a matter of indifference- fitter, in truth, to hold a DISTAFF and CARD WOOL AMONG SERVANT GIRLS than at any time to be considered as RIVALS by Sidney. For no one ever wished ill to the honor of the Sidney's except him who wished ill to the commonwealth; no one ever for forsook Philip except him whom the hope that he might at some time be honourable had also forsaken; and no one ever injured him except him for whom virtue and piety had no love. He was never so incensed, however, by the wrongs of malignant or slanderous men but that at the slightest sign of penitence the heat of his disturbed spirit would die down, and he would bury all past offenses under a kind of everlasting OBLIVION. (p.82 Nobilis (The Noble Man), Moffett) 


Author: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.  ]

Title: Poems: vvritten by Wil. Shake-speare. Gent

Date: 1640 

Achilles his concealement of his Sex in the Court of Lycomedes.

NOw from another World doth saile with joy,

A welcome daughter to the King of Troy,

The whilst the Gr[...]cians are already come,

(Mov'd with that generall wrong 'gainst Islium:)

Achilles in a Smocke, his Sex doth smother,

And laies the blame upon his carefull mother,

What mak'st thou great Achilles, teazing Wooll·

When Pallas in a Helme should claspe thy Scul[...]?

What doth these fingers with fine threds of gold?

Which were more fit a Warlike Shield to hold.

Why should that right hand, Rocke or Tow containe,

By which the Trojan Hector must be slaine?

Cast off thy loose vailes, and thy Armour take,

And in thy hand the *Speare of Pellas shake*.

Thus Lady-like he with a Lady lay,

Till what he was, must her belly bewray,

Yet was she forc't (so should we all beleeve)

Not to be forc't so· now her heart would grieve:

When he should rise from her, still would she crie·

(For he had arm'd him, and his Rocke laid by)

And with a [...]ft voyce spake: Achilles stay,

It is too soone to rise, lie downe I pray,

And then the man that forc't her, she would kisse,

What force (Delade[...]a) call you this? 

Pelias hasta – spear of Achilles (shaft grown on mount Pelion)


Mocking Oxford’s “Sublime” Ciceronian Style:

Gabriel Harvey and Oxford

 In 1578 the Queen visited Cambridge, accompanied by the whole Court. Harvey met the procession at Audley End, presented verses written in their honor.

The following address, in Latin, was presented to Lord Oxford (trans. by Ward).

An heroic address to [Oxford], concerning the combined utility and dignity of military affairs and of warlike exercises.

This is my welcome; this is how I have decided to bid All Hail!

to thee and to the other Nobles.

Thy splendid fame, great Earl, demands even more than in the case of others

the services of a poet possessing LOFTY ELOQUENCE.

Thy merit doth not creep along the ground,

nor can it be confined within the limits of a song.

It is a WONDER which reaches as far as the heavenly orbs.

O great-hearted one, strong in thy mind and thy fiery will,

thou wilt conquer thyself, thou wilt conquer others;

thy glory will spread out in all directions beyond the Arctic Ocean;

and England will put thee to the test and prove thee to be native-born ACHILLES.

Do thou but go forward boldly and without hesitation.

Mars will obey thee, Hermes will be thy messenger,

Pallas striking her shield with her spear shaft will attend thee,

thine own breast and courageous heart will instruct thee.

For long time past Phoebus Apollo has cultivated thy mind in the arts.

English poetical measures have been sung by thee long enough.

Let that Courtly Epistle  —

more POLISHED even than the writings of Castiglione himself —

witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters.

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.

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.

On all sides men are talking of camps and of deadly weapons; war and the Furies are everywhere,

and Bellona reigns supreme.

Now may all martial influences support thy eager mind, driving out the cares of Peace.

Pull Hannibal up short at the gates of Britain. Defended though he be by a mighty host,

let Don John of Austria come on only to be driven home again. Fate is unknown to man,

nor are the counsels of the Thunderer fully determined.

And what if suddenly a most powerful enemy should invade our borders?

If the Turk should be arming his savage hosts against us?

What though the terrible war trumpet is even now sounding its blast?

Thou wilt see it all; even at this very moment thou art fiercely longing for the fray.

I feel it. Our whole country knows it.

In thy breast is noble blood, Courage animates thy brow, Mars lives in thy tongue,

Minerva strengthen thy right hand, Bellona reigns in thy body, within thee burns the fire of Mars.

Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear;

who would not swear that ACHILLES had come to life again?


You are wielding the plectrum, and a tender mistress holds you in her warm embrace! And does anyone ask wherefore do you refuse to fight? Because the fight brings danger: while the zither, and song, and Venus, bring delight. Safer it is to lie on the couch, to clasp a sweetheart in your arms, to tinkle with your fingers the Thracian lyre, than to take in hand the shield, and the speare with sharpened point…Ye Gods forfend! And may the spear of Pelion go quivering from your strong arm to pierce the side of Hectore [validoque, precor, vibrata lacerto /transeat Hectoreum Pelias hasta latus!] 

(Ovid, Heroides 3.113-26) 


"that famous poet who TAKES his name from “shaking” and “spear”:

An Unnoticed Early Reference to Shakespeare

Fred Schurink

IN a recent article in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Douglas Bruster noted that in the second edition of Thomas Vicars's manual of rhetoric, Xeipaγωγia, Manuductio ad artem rhetoricam (1624, first edition 1621), the author introduced a list of outstanding English poets...If readers would like to find out more about the subject, however, he recommends they consult Bartholomaeus Keckermann's Philippo-Ramaeum rhetoricae systema (1605) and especially Charles Butler's popular rhetorical manual, Rhetoricae libri duo (first printed in 1597 under the title Rameae rhetoricae libri duo). In the latter, he continues, Butler ‘lists certain poets whose measures and wit our countrymen have praised and of whom our England boasts, perhaps not without cause: Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, and George Wither’. Vicars then goes on to say that he personally enjoys reading Drayton most and offers two brief English poems in praise of him, supposedly written after having been inspired by Drayton's extremely popular Englands Heroicall Epistles... (1597).


What Bruster fails to mention, and what seems to have escaped the attention of scholars of English literature so far, is that in the third edition of the manual, published in 1628, Vicars added a short passage in which he punningly alludes to Shakespeare's name. The reference is included directly after his mention of the other English poets, and runs as follows: ‘To these I believe should be added that famous poet who takes his name from “shaking” and “spear”, John Davies, and my namesake, the pious and learned poet John Vicars.’ The passage expressing Vicars's enthusiasm for Drayton's poetry which followed in the previous edition is retained. Perhaps under Vicars's influence, Charles Butler, on whose text Vicars had originally modelled his discussion of the English poets, then also included Shakespeare's name in his list in the 1635 edition of Rhetoricae libri duo (in place of Chaucer's). (snip) Vicars's punning allusion to Shakespeare, while reflecting his characteristic fondness for wordplay,10 also suggests that he was a familiar figure to readers of the manual. This is confirmed by the fact that Shakespeare is the only author in Vicars's list who is called ‘famous’ (‘celeber’)...Certainly, the term ‘poeta’, which Vicars uses in reference to Shakespeare, could denote a dramatist as well as a poet in the strict sense of the word. Vicars does not, however, use any of the available qualifiers to make it clear that he is specifically referring to Shakespeare as a playwright (as Charles Butler did, for example, when he spoke of him as one of the ‘Poëtae scaenici’, ‘tragicus comicus historicus Guilielmus Shakspeare’). Notes and Queries (March 2006) 53 (1): 72-75. 


Chapman, Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois

When Homer made Achilles passionate,

Wrathfull, revengefull, and insatiate15

In his affections, what man will denie

He did compose it all of industrie

To let men see that men of most renowne,

Strong'st, noblest, fairest, if they set not downe

Decrees within them, for disposing these,20

Of judgement, resolution, uprightnesse,

And certaine knowledge of their use and ends,

Mishap and miserie no lesse extends

To their destruction, with all that they pris'd,

Then to the poorest and the most despis'd?25


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)

Oxford's Achillean list of virtues (heroic) is, however, is qualified by an Achillean display of pride and intemperance (incivility):

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 estate

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. 

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,

Labour with iron flailes to *thresh downe feathers

Flitting in AYRE*.

Ren. What one considers this,

Of all that are thus out? or once endevours,

Erring, to enter on mans RIGHT-HAND PATH? (note - Droeshout figure, ambisinister, error/ignorance)

Clermont. These are too grave for brave wits; give them toyes;

Labour bestow'd on these is harsh and thriftlesse. (snip)


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.


Sidney , Defense

...But let this be a sufficient, though short note, that we misse the right use of the material point of Poesie. Now for the outside of it, which is words, or (as I may tearme it) Diction, it is even well worse: so is it that HONY-FLOWING Matrone Eloquence, apparrelled, or rather disguised, in a Courtisanlike PAINTED AFFECTATION. One time with so farre fet(ched) words, that many seeme monsters, but must seeme Straungers to anie poore Englishman: an other time with coursing of a letter, as if they were bound to follow the method of a Dictionary: an other time with figures and flowers, extreemely winter-starved. But I would this fault were onely peculiar to Versefiers, and had not as large possession among Prose- Printers: and which is to be mervailed among many Schollers, & which is to be pitied among some Preachers. Truly I could wish, if at I might be so bold to wish, in a thing beyond the reach of my capacity, the diligent Imitators of TULLY and DEMOSTHENES (note - Tully/Cicero); Demosthenes, most worthie to be imitated, did not so much keepe Nizolian paper bookes, of their figures and phrase, as by attentive translation, as it were, devoure them whole, and make them wholly theirs. For now they cast SUGAR and SPICE uppon everie dish that is served to the table: like those Indians, not content to weare eare-rings at the fit and naturall place of the eares, but they will thrust Jewels through their nose and lippes, because they will be sure to be fine. 


Sidney Sonnet II

Let DAINTY wits crie on the Sisters nine,

That, BRAVELY MASKT, their fancies may be told;

Or, Pindars APES , flaunt they in PHRASES FINE,

Enam'ling with pied flowers their thoughts of gold;

Or else let them in statlier glorie shine,

Ennobling new-found tropes with problemes old;

Or with strange similes enrich each line,

Of herbes or beasts which Inde or Affrick hold.

For me, in sooth, no Muse but one I know,

Phrases and problems from my reach do grow;

And strange things cost too deare for my poor sprites.

How then? euen thus: in Stellaes face I reed

What Loue and Beautie be; then all my deed

But copying is, what in her Nature writes. 


Erasmus, “Apes of Cicero,” and Conceptual Blending

Kenneth Gouwens


...the portrayals of apes even in the Adages of 1508 [note – Erasmus] could have done little positive for the animals’ image. In explaining the proverb “An ape is an ape, though clad in gold,” Erasmus retells Lucian’s story about an Egyptian king who taught some monkeys to dance, MASKED AND ATTIRED IN SCARLET. Initially compelling, the performance fell apart when a spectator scattered nuts before the apes, who ceased dancing and fought over them. (...) Another adage, “Hercules and an ape,” highlights a more insidious aspect of simian nature, the capacity to hoodwink: whereas “Hercules excels in strength,” the “ape’s power lies in sneaky tricks.” But if monkeys are ridiculous and tricky in and of themselves, in the 1508 edition they more often serve the purpose of holding the mirror up to human folly. Thus the proverb “A donkey among apes” is taken to describe how someone dull-witted falls in among “satirical and insolent people” who mock their hapless victim with impunity. More seriously, as one sees in the adage “An ape in purple,” the deception may consist in a veneer of cultured elegance that camouflages, albeit incompletely, a foulness beneath. The phrase can be applied, says Erasmus, to those “whose true nature, though they may be wearing very fine clothes, is obvious from their expression and character,” as well as “to those who have some inappropriate dignity thrust upon them, or when something nasty in itself is unsuitably decked out with ornament from some unconnected or external source.

.....Already in 1508, Erasmus occasionally likens apes to pseudo-intellectuals. Thus the adage “No [aged] monkey was ever caught in a trap” is “often applied to clever and slippery talkers who cannot be caught out.” Similarly, “a painted monkey,” which refers directly to an ugly old woman made up like a prostitute, can also illustrate and idea: for example, “if someone dresses up an immoral argument with rhetorical trappings so that it seems honest.”  The two remaining images from 1508 point to the simian as unable even to approach the boundary that separates it from the human. Erasmus glosses “the prettiest ape is hideous” as referring to “things which are intrinsically defective, and by no means to be compared with even the lowest specimens of the class of things that possess any merit...” And “The tragical ape” appears to be practically a simulacrum of the human: “Ape, like manikin, is the word for what is scarcely a man and more like a pale copy of one...”

.....In subsequent expansions, Erasmus adds further shading to some of these adages, directing their thrust at scholars of the type lampooned in the _Ciceronianus_. Whereas in 1508 the gloss of “An ape in purple” ended with the observations “What could be more ridiculous?” the 1515 edition continues: “And yet this is a thing we quite often see in a household where they keep monkeys as pets: they dress them up with plenty of finery to look as much like human beings as possible, sometimes even in purple, so as to deceive people who do not look carefully or have seen nothing like it before...” Erasmus now ends the gloss by turning around the comparison: “How many apes of this kind one can see in princes’ courts, whom you will find, if you strip them of their purple, their collars and their jewels, to be no better than any cobbler!” Importantly, in this addendum Erasmus refers to apelike courtiers with the rare masculine form (simios), which he would use consistently when ridiculing “apes of Cicero” in the Ciceronianus.


Poetaster, Jonson

Caesar. We have, indeed, you worthiest friends of Caesar. 

It is the bane and torment of our ears, 

To hear the discords of those jangling rhymers, 

That with their bad and scandalous practices 

Bring all true arts and learning in contempt. 

But let not your high thoughts descend so low 

As these despised objects; LET THEM FALL, 

With their flat grovelling souls: be you yourselves; 

And as with our best favours you stand crown'd, 

So let your mutual loves be still renown'd. 

Envy will dwell where there is want of merit, 

Though the deserving man should crack his spirit. 

Blush, folly, blush; here's none that fears 

The wagging of an ass's ears, 

Although a WOLFISH CASE he wears. 

Detraction is but baseness' varlet; 

And  APES are APES, though clothed in SCARLET. [Exeunt].

Rumpatur, quisquis rumpitur invidi! [MARTIAL – LET ENVIOUS POETS BURST]


On Poet Ape – only Shakespearean sonnet in Jonson’s 1616 Epigrams

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 robbed, 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!



English Authorship and the Early Modern Sublime – Patrick Cheney

In Cynthia’s Revels, near the beginning of his career (first printed 1600), Jonson uses the word twice, both surrounding the figure of Amorphus, described by Mercury in Act 2, scene 3 as ‘a traveller, one so made out of the mixture and shreds of forms that himself is truly deformed’ (66-7). In other words, Amorphus is a figure of transport, and his composition, made up of ‘forms’ that are ‘deformed’, takes us into what we have previously described as Kantian territory. Amorphus is that sublime figure of form that has none (curiously akin to Marlowe’s Helen of Troy), accommodated to the Jonsonian public sphere, where Amorphus’ ‘adaptability and social versatility is a form of shapelessness which links the literal metamorphoses of Echo, Narcissus, and Acteaon, and the cultural ones of Asotus and others’ in the action of the play. (Rassmussen and Steggle).

In using the word ‘sublimated’, Amorphus stands before the Fountain of Self-Love, having just conversed with Narcissus’o ne-time beloved, the beautiful nymph Echo – who has just abandoned Amorphus – when Jonson’s figure of formless form steps forth to take the plunge: ‘Liberal and divine fount, suffer my profane hand to take of they bounties’. Intoxicated by ‘most ambrosiac water’, he broods why the beguiling feminine potency of the well should accept him but Echo turn her heel:

Knowing myself an essence so sublimated and refined by travel, of so studied and well-exercised a gesture, so alone in fashion, able to make the face of any statesman living, and to speak the mere extraction of language…; to conclude, in all so happy as even admiration herself does seem to fasten her kisses upon me; certes I do neither see, nor feel, nor taste, nor savour the least steam or fume of a reason that should invite this foolish fastidious nymph so peevishly to abandon me. (1.3.24-35; emphasis added)

Amorphus speaks the alchemical language of sublimity but adapts it to his personal identity – his ability to transport himself into a heightened state of ‘language’ that attracts the erotic ‘admiration’ of others – in an appropriately comical language of hyperbolic elevation.

Specifically, Amorphus engages in narcissism by vaunting his self-knowledge: ‘travel’ refines and ‘sublimate[s]’ his ‘essence’ into a quintessence of gold, and such sublimity underwrites his social and political theatre, during which he can ‘make the face of any statesman living’,  as Jeremy Face will do to London citizens in the Alchemist. Sublime transport here is not transcendent but political and social, the Protean self enlivened, capable of adapting to exigency, endlessly. Self-consciously, Jonson makes comically sublime theatre out of a comically sublime theatrical character. We might even see here an impressive staging of the kind of comical hyperbole discussed by Longinus in On Sublimity, which is one form that the sublime can take: ‘acts and emotion which approach ecstasy provide a justification for, and an antidote to, any linguistic audacity. This is why comic hyperboles, for all their incredulity, are convincing because we laugh at them so much…Laughter is emotion in amusement’.


Jonson’s linking of sublimity with a character named ‘Amorphus’ merits pause, because this agile figure looks like a photographic negative of Jonson himself. Without question, the author-figure in Cynthia’s Revels is Criticus (called Crites in the Folio edition), ‘the poet-scholar’ of “Judgement’ who ‘represents Jonson’s literary, philosophical, and ethical ideals’ (Bednarz, Shakespeare & The Poets’ War 159-60), and who becomes the play’s arch-enemy to Amorphus and the motley crew of corrupt courtiers, Hedon, Anaides, ad Asotus. According to James Bednarz, Amorphus is a figure who represents ‘Deformity’ and the ‘lack of true conviction’, and who becomes enamoured of a nymph who happens to be named Phantaste or ‘fantasy’ (159-600. In these terms, the project of the play is to ‘replac[e]…the rhetoric of “nature’ and “instinct” staged in Marston’s Jack Drum with the sterner interdictions of “art” and “judgement” in a larger “allegory of self-knowledge’ (160). According to Bednarz, Marston had rejected Jonson’s rational, judgemental poetics in favour of one based on imaginative instinct, which Jonson then shows to be purged of cultural authority.

Nonetheless, as Rasmussen and Steggle write, Amorphus ‘prefigures Jonson’s later tricksters’ in being ‘at the centre of the play’s action due to his energy and inventiveness, both verbal and physical’. Rasmussen and Steggle go so far as to see Amorphus as akin to Jonson himself: ‘biographically Jonson is more like Amorphus than Criticus’, citing Jonson’s ‘experiences in foreign travel’ and his ‘natural charisma and drive’. Even ‘Amorphus’s weaknesses (lack of money and tendency to exaggerate) are close to those of Jonson;. Wisely, Rasmussen and Steggle caution against ‘claim[ing] that Amorphus “is” Jonson, or even to over-allegorize the tension between Amorphus and his nemesis Criticus’ (eds. 1:435); but they do help us see that the figure of Amorphus qualifies as a *sublime counter-Jonsonian author-figure*. (pp. 220-1)


Cynthias Revels, Jonson


He that is with him is Amorphus

a Traveller, one so made out of the mixture and shreds

of forms, that himself is truly deform'd. He walks

most commonly with a Clove or Pick-tooth in his

Mouth, he is the very mint of Complement, all his Be-

haviours are printed, his Face is another Volume of

Essayes; and his Beard an Aristarchus. He speaks all

Cream skim'd, and more affected than a dozen of wait-

ing Women. He is his own Promoter in every place.

The Wife of the Ordinary gives him his Diet to main-

tain her Table in discourse, which (indeed) is a meer

Tyranny over the other Guests, for he will usurp all

the talk: *Ten Constables are not so tedious*. 


Sidney, Defence of Poetry

But, besides these gross absurdities, how all their plays be neither RIGHT tragedies nor RIGHT comedies (note - two left arms or the Droeshout), mingling kings and clowns, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters, with neither DECENCY nor DISCRETION; so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragi-comedy obtained. I know Apuleius did somewhat so, but that is a thing recounted with space of time, not represented in one moment; and I know the ancients have one or two examples of tragi-comedies, as Plautus hath Amphytrio. But, if we mark them well, we shall find that they never, or very daintily, match hornpipes and funerals. So falleth it out that, having indeed NO RIGHT COMEDY in that comical part of our tragedy, we have nothing but SCURRILITY, unworthy of any chaste ears, or some extreme show of doltihsness, indeed fit to lift up a loud laughter, and nothing else; where the whole tract of a comedy should be full of delight, as the tragedy should be still maintained in a well-raised admiration.

But OUR COMEDIANS think there is no delight without laughter, which is very WRONG; for though laughter may come with delight, yet cometh it not of delight, as though delight should be the cause of laughter; but well may one thing breed both together. Nay, rather in themselves they have, as it were, a kind of contrariety. For delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves, or to the general nature; laughter almost ever cometh of things most DISPROPORTIONED to ourselves and nature.


Sidney,  Defense

But I have lavished out too many words of this playmatter. I do it, because as they are excelling parts of poesy, so is there none so much used in England, and none can be more pitifully ABUSED; which, like an unMANNERly daughter, showing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesy`s HONESTY to be called in question. 


Ben Jonson's Poems By Wesley Trimpi

...Jonson’s fundamental objection to the sonnet…is that it leads one to say more than one has to say in order to satisfy the form. The poet is obliged to use rhetorical figures, and his intentions becomes contradictory to that of the plain style. As the rhetorical figures and the form become more important, the range of subject matter decreases. The poet who seeks the grace and charm of the middle style will do well to utilize that grace which, according to Demetrius, “ may reside in the subject matter, if it is the gardens of the Nymphs, marriage-lays, love-stories” (On Style, 132), or “Petrarch’s long-deceased woes.” The freedom of the plain style to treat of any subject depends on it primary purpose, which is to tell the truth. Since the officium of the middle style is to delight (delectare), many subjects must be excluded, and the emphasis is no longer on content but on expression.

The conventional adjectives for rhetorical ornateness in poetry were “sugred” or “honied,” and each could be used as a equivalent for Ciceronian rhetoric itself. The term “sugred” was most often applied to sonnets, such as in the famous comment of Francis Meres on “the mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private friends.” Among the literary genres the epigram was often regarded as a corrective for the trite diffuseness of the sonnet. The salt of incisive wit was needed to preserve the poem, which otherwise might cloy and dissolve like candy. Sir John Harington contrasts the two sets of conventions in his epigram called “Comparison of the Sonnet, and the Epigram”:

Once, by mishap, two Poets fell a-squaring,

The Sonnet, and our Epigram comparing;

And Faustus, having long demur’d upon it,

Yet, at the last, gave sentence for the Sonnet.

Now, for such censure, this his chiefe defence is,

Their sugred taste best likes his likresse senses.

Well, though I grant Sugar may please the taste,

Tet let my verse have salt enough to make it last.

In terms of the poetic conventions the rhetorical controversy between Ciceronianism and Senecanism became one between a MELLIFLUOUS and a SINUOUS style. 


HONEY-TONGUED Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue,

I swore Apollo got them and none other;

Their rosy-tinted features clothed in tissue,

Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother:

Rose-cheeked Adonis, with his amber tresses,

Fair fire-hot Venus, charming him to love her,

Chaste Lucretia, virgin-like her dresses,

Proud lust-stung Tarquin, seeking still to prove her:

Romeo, Richard; more whose names I know not,

Their SUGARED tongues, and power attractive beauty

Say they are saints, although that saints they show not,

For thousands vow to them subjective duty :

They burn in love, thy children, Shakespeare HET them ,

Go, woo thy Muse, more Nymphish brood beget them.

Epigrammes in the oldest Cut, and newest Fashion.

John Weever. 1599. Fourth Weeke, Epig. 22. 


Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,

Warble his native wood-notes wild. - Milton 


Thomas Bancroft (1639), Two Bookes of Epigrammes and Epitaphs

118. To Shakespeare.

Thy Muses SUGRED DAINTIES seeme to us

Like the fam’d apples of old Tantalus :

For we (admiring) see and heare thy straines,

But none I see or heare those sweets attaines.


Return from Parnassus

...In another exchange Ingenioso says "Amonge other of youre vertues I doe observe youre stile to be most pure, youre English tonge comes as neere Tullies (note- Cicero) as anie mans livinge." to which Gullio replies "Oh Sir, that was my care, to prove a complet gentleman, to be tam Marti quam Mercurio; in so muche that I am pointed at for a poet in Pauls church yard.."

When the penniless poet offers verses written in a variety of styles, Gullio far prefers the writing style of Mr. Shakespeare and his speech is littered with quotations from the plays.

Gullio speaks scornfully of 'Liteltonians', that is people who learned elementary French from the language tutor Claude Hollyband's 'French Littleton', which is worth comparing with the comment Florio makes in the opening address to his translation of Montaigne's essays: "seven or eight of great wit and worth have assayed but found these Essayes no attempt for French apprentises or Littletonians." As the scene draws to a close Gullio exclaims "O sweet Mr Shakspeare, Ile have his picture in my study at the courte."


Return from Parnassus

Ingenioso 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.

Ingenioso (mocking) Sweet Mr. Shakespeare!

Gullio: Oh sweet Mr. Shakespeare, I’ll have his picture in my study at the Courte

Gullio: Let the duncified worlde esteeme Spenser and Chaucer, I’ll worship sweet Mr. Shakespeare.


Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning

There be therefore chiefly three vanities in studies, whereby learning hath been most traduced. For those things we do esteem VAIN which are either false or frivolous, those which either have no truth or no use; and those persons we esteem vain which are either credulous or curious; and curiosity is either in matter or words: so that in reason as well as in experience there fall out to be these three distempers (as I may term them) of learning--the first, fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the last, delicate learning; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and vain affectations; and with the last I will begin. Martin Luther, conducted, no doubt, by a higher Providence, but in discourse of reason, finding what a province he had undertaken against the Bishop of Rome and the degenerate traditions of the Church, and finding his own solitude, being in nowise aided by the opinions of his own time, was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his succours to make a party against the present time. So that the ancient authors, both in divinity and in humanity, which had long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. This, by consequence, did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite travail in the languages original, wherein those authors did write, for the better understanding of those authors, and the better advantage of pressing and applying their words. And thereof grew, again, a delight in their manner of style and phrase, and an admiration of that kind of writing, which was much furthered and precipitated by the enmity and opposition that the propounders of those primitive but seeming new opinions had against the schoolmen, who were generally of the contrary part, and whose writings were altogether in a differing style and form; taking liberty to coin and frame new terms of art to express their own sense, and to avoid circuit of speech, without regard to the pureness, pleasantness, and (as I may call it) lawfulness of the phrase or word. And again, because the great labour then was with the people (of whom the Pharisees were wont to say, Execrabilis ista turba, quae non novit legem) [the wretched crowd that has not know the law], for the winning and persuading of them, there grew of necessity in chief price and request eloquence and variety of discourse, as the fittest and forciblest access into the capacity of the vulgar sort; so that these four causes concurring--the admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching--did bring in an affectionate study of eloquence and copy of speech, which then began to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter--more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment. Then grew the flowing and watery vein of Osorius, the Portugal bishop, to be in price. Then did STURMIUS spend such infinite and curious pains upon Cicero the Orator and Hermogenes the Rhetorician, besides his own books of Periods and Imitation, and the like. Then did Car of Cambridge and Ascham with their lectures and writings almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and allure all young men that were studious unto that delicate and polished kind of learning. Then did Erasmus take occasion to make the scoffing echo, Decem annos consuumpsi in legendo Cicerone [I have spent ten years in reading Cicero(ne); and the echo answered in Greek, One, Asine. Then grew the learning of the schoolmen to be utterly despised as barbarous. In sum, the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copy than weight.

Here therefore is the first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter, whereof though I have represented an example of late times, yet it hath been and will be secundum majus et minus[more or less] in all timeAnd how is it possible but this should have an operation to discredit learning, even with vulgar capacities, when they see learned men's works like the first letter of a patent or limited book, which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is but a letter? It seems to me that Pygmalion's frenzy is a good emblem or portraiture of this vanity; for words are but the images of matter, and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture.

But yet notwithstanding it is a thing not hastily to be condemned, to clothe and adorn the obscurity even of philosophy itself with sensible and plausible elocution. For hereof we have great examples in Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and of Plato also in some degree; and hereof likewise there is great use, for surely, to the severe inquisition of truth and the deep progress into philosophy, it is some hindrance because it is too early satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of further search before we come to a just period. But then if a man be to have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference, counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like, then shall he find it prepared to his hands in those authors which write in that manner. But the excess of this is so justly contemptible, that as Hercules, when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus' minion, in a temple, said in disdain, Nil sacri es [Thou art no Divinity]; so there is none of Hercules' followers in learning--that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers into truth--but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as indeed capable of no divineness. And thus much of the first disease or distemper of learning.

The second, which followeth, is in nature worse than the former, for as substance of matter is better than beauty of words, so contrariwise vain matter is worse than vain words; wherein it seemeth the reprehension of St. Paul was not only proper for those times, but prophetical for the times following, and not only respective* to divinity but extensive[5] to all knowledge: Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiae.[Avoid profane novelties of terms and the oppositions of what is falsely called knowledge." I Tim. 6.20] For he assigneth two marks and badges of suspected and falsified science: the one, the novelty and strangeness of terms; the other, the strictness of positions,[7] which of necessity doth induce oppositions, and so questions and altercations. Surely, like as many substances in nature which are solid do putrefy and corrupt into worms, so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to putrefy and dissolve into a number of subtile, idle, unwholesome, and (as I may term them) vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness* and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the schoolmen, who having sharp and strong wits and abundance of leisure and small variety of reading, but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors (chiefly Aristotle their dictator) as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges, and knowing little history, either of nature or time, did out of no great quantity of matter and infinite agitation of wit spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning which are extant in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, worketh according to the stuff, and is limited thereby, but if it work upon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work but of no substance or profit.


Jennifer Richards


...The questione della lingua is focused on a particular question: should the courtier imitate the literary greats, borrowing from them words already endowed with authority, or should he follow the promptings of his own talents, and employ the language of his contemporaries? [24] Notably, it covers ground already familiar to us from the earlier discussion of nobility: can courtly gracefulness be learned, or is it a property natural to the nobly born? For this reason, it contributes to our understanding of the relationship between art and nature so central to the nobility debate, and it also further aims to inculcate in us a practice of reading which is itself ennobling.

Throughout the discussion, Canossa is committed to the idea that all we need is talent and a willingness to adopt the contemporary linguistic idiom, but he needs to defend his position against an interlocutor, Fregoso, who champions the need for imitation. Castiglione seems to set up an argument in utramque partem which enables us to see both sides of the debate, and to choose the more persuasive one. However, the dialogue does not quite work like that. When Fregoso objects that Canossa's advice encourages the courtier to reproduce the solecisms of ignorant speakers, our speaker produces this confusing explanation: "Good usage in speech is born with men who have native wit, and, with teaching and experience, acquire good judgement, and in accordance with it, agree upon apt words whose quality they know from a certain natural judgement rather than from art or any rule" (87/68). [25]

This sentence seems to epitomise Canossa's disdainful refusal to teach us; it looks like a deliberate obfuscation. However, he is in fact following the example set by the dissimulating Antonius, and is showing, not telling us, the artificial causes of "natural" rhetorical skill (78-80/63-64). The questione della lingua is difficult to follow not just because it is meandering, contradictory and ambiguous, but because it offers a partial account of De oratore while relying on our knowledge of that text. [26]


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 supplied of Oyle,

Fetch'd from the Romane and the Graecian soyle. (snip) 


John Oldham on Jonson


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.



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.



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.


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..  



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 deceasèd 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.