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TOPIC: A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence

A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4607

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On this series of posts I want to review some of the evidence that's been put forth as being sufficient to claim that William Shakspere of Stratford wrote the Shake-Speare plays and poetry, some even claiming it as proof. I expect to show that not one piece of this evidence can be considered as strong evidence and certainly that none of it can overcome the barrier of the alternate theory of authorship. Then at some point I'll start posting material regarding the idea of Bacon's hiding his authorship. I probably won't discuss each and every piece of evidence but at least the main tenets.

To start, here is how one alternate author (not a Baconian) described the identity issue: "The reason the identity of Shakespeare is shrouded in mystery may very well be that it was planned that way. We should label this plan a deliberate, premeditated strategem rather than a deliberate hoax, for while the author is in part playing a joke on his audience, the secret of authorship was planned for any number of good and sufficient motives. For such a deliberate, deep-laid deception to have been successful for a period of close to four hundred years would argue that only a few individuals were entrusted with the secret".
Shake-Speare: The Mystery by George Elliott Sweet, 1956.

Returning to Nigel Cockburn's 1998 book The Bacon-Shakespeare Question, he has this to say about evidence criteria:

"There are also about a score of references in Shakspere's lifetime to Shakespeare or William Shakespeare, and without the "Mr.", in praise of his work. These individually throw no light on whether the makers of the references believed Shake-Speare to be (William) Shakspere or merely a pen name for someone else. It is likely that many or most of them believed him (Shake-Speare the author) to be Shakspere (of Stratford). But if a literary work is published under the name of a real person, or under a name close enough to be taken for that of a real person, one assumes him to be its author unless one has reason to know otherwise. Though Stratfordians are lothe to concede this, a reference to Shakespeare is worthless individually as evidence of Shakspere's authorship unless it satisfies three conditions.

First, it must identify Shakspere with Shake-Speare in one way or another. Secondly, its maker must have been likely to know if Shakspere was not Shake-Speare. Thirdly, he must have been likely to reveal that fact in the reference under consideration.

This third condition must be added because someone likely to know the truth might still identify Shakspere with Shake-Speare because he wished to protect the secret. In my view not one of the references satisfies all three conditions. And the same applies to the few further references to Shakespeare by name in the years following Shakspere's death.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4611

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First up as a one who has been promoted as providing evidence of William Shakspere's authorship is Robert Greene.

Robert Greene (1558-92) is one contemporary of Shake-Speare often brought forward as providing evidence of William Shakspere's authorship. Greene was a poet, playwright and pamphleteer. In 1592 shortly before his death, he published a pamphlet Groatsworth of Wit, and annexed to it a letter to three unnamed author acquaintances who can be identified as Marlowe and (probably) Thomas Nashe and George Peele. The letter attacks actors for battening on dramatists and includes the following passage:

"Base-minded men all three of you, if by my misery you be not warned: for unto none of you (like me) sought those burrs to cleave: those puppets (I mean) that spake from our mouths, those antics garnished in our colours. Is it not strange that I, to whom they have all been beholding, shall (were ye in that case as I am now) be both at once of them forsaken? Yes, trust them not: for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and, being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country".

The upstart crow was obviously Shakespeare; Shake-scene is a play on his name, and the words italicised are a parody of 3 Henry VI, 1.4.137: "O, Tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide". And Greene's crow was both actor and playwright. So Greene identified Shakspere with Shake-Speare. But plainly Greene was not a confidant of Shakspere of Stratford, but an enemy; and would therefore be unlikely to know Shakspere's secret, if there was one.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4614

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Here’s another claim:

Around 1601, students in Cambridge put on a play called The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus, the third in a series of plays that satirized the London literary scene. In this play, two characters named "Kempe" and "Burbage" appear, representing the actors Will Kempe and Richard Burbage of the Chamberlain's Men. At one point Kempe says,

“Few of the university [men] pen plays well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why, here's our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down, aye and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit.

This passage establishes that the playwright Shakespeare was a fellow actor of Kempe and Burbage, contrasts him with the University-educated playwrights, and establishes him as a rival of Ben Jonson.

Another author even said that “In 1602 the famous comedian Will Kempe wrote 'Here's our Shakespeare puts them all down, aye, and Ben Jonson too”.


Response: The famous comedian Will Kempe DID NOT say or write that. As mentioned by the first Stratfordian the quote comes from The Return from Parnassus Part 2, Act 4.3.1753-1760. The play was the third in a series played at St. John's College, Cambridge, between 1598-1602. They are likely to have been written by two or more authors who were probably college members, and they were acted by college students. Will Kempe, the 'famous comedian' was one of the characters being portrayed and the full quote was making fun at his ignorance.

The character Will Kempe was made to look ignorant, first, because 'Metamorphosis' wasn’t a writer, but the title of a work by the classical writer Ovid. Secondly, he is made to look ignorant because he's supposedly admiring his fellow Shakespeare for NOT writing like the university playwrights who "smell too much of Ovid" when, in fact, Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, which the authors admire, is based on a story from Ovid's Metamorphosis (and headed by a couplet from Ovid's Amores), and The Rape of Lucrece was based on Ovid's Fasti. So, since the Parnassus authors are likely college students that admired classical authors as well as Shakespeare who also obviously liked classical authors, and since the character Will Kempe is being shown to be ignorant of 'his fellow' Shakespeare's reliance on classical authors, he is also probably being poked fun at for not realizing that 'his fellow' (the actor Will Shakspere) did NOT actually write the works under the name of Shake-Speare. Other parts of the play show the authors poking fun at actors for "mouthing words that better wits have framed" and because "They purchase lands, and now Esquires are named" (clear references to the actor Shakespeare). In other words, Kemp's "fellow Shakespeare" embodies the joke that Shake-Speare (as opposed to the actor Shakspere) was not Kemp's fellow at all. Instead, he was one that actually did share the “faults” of the university playwrights (“smelling of Ovid”) because he was one of them.

This is a very abridged response. A fuller response is found in Cockburn’s book and elsewhere. This is also discussed in Bate’s recent book Soul of the Age.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4618

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Next is John Davies of Hereford who, in 1610, published a volume entitled The Scourge of Folly, consisting mostly of poems to famous people and Davies's friends. One of these poems was addressed to Shakespeare:

To our English Terence, Mr. Will. Shake-speare.
Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing,
Had'st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King;
And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
Some others raile; but, raile as they thinke fit,
Thou hast no railing, but a raigning Wit:
And honesty thou sow'st, which they do reape;
So, to increase their Stocke which they do keepe.

Response: At first, this poem (or epigram) appears to show that Davies believed Will Shakspere, the actor, as to be also the playwright William Shake-Speare, since Terence was a Roman playwright. And the last line that says “to increase their Stocke” seems to suggest the creation of a ‘stock’ of plays that others benefited from. However, Terence was believed, both in Roman times (by Cicero) and in Elizabethan times (by Robert Ascham and John Florio) as a “Mask” for a patrician playwright (either Scipio or Laelius). And Davies would most likely be aware of this widespread belief about Terence. So why liken Will Shake-speare to Terence if not to suggest that he too was a mask for a similar hidden playwright? Others that likened Shake-Speare to an ancient author usually cited Plautus, who was generally regarded as the best Roman comedy playwright. Frances Meres does this as does Thomas Fuller. Since John Davies was a friend of Bacon’s, if he was in on Bacon’s secret, then he would go along with Bacon’s wish to keep that secret, though he may at times hint otherwise.

On the other hand again, Davies, in an earlier work, Microcosmos (1603) he wrote a poem about ‘Players’, some of whom did painting and poesy:

Players, I love ye and your Quality,
As ye are men that pass time, not abus’d:
And some I love for * painting , poesy
……….

Then, to the left of this poem on the page are the initials W.S. and R.B. presumably standing for Will Shakspere and Richard Burbage (who was an amateur painter).

This poem seems more clearly to identify Will Shakspere as the poet “William Shake-Speare”, but on the other hand it was written 7 years prior to the one comparing Will Shake-speare to Terence. So, if Bacon was Shake-Speare, Davies may have learned of this after 1603 and kept up the secret, with possibly a hint otherwise. And again, if Bacon was Shake-Speare, and if Davies never did learn of this secret then the 1610 reference to “Our English Terence” may just have been a genuine compliment.

Interestingly, Davies, in that same The Scourge of Folly volume, wrote a sonnet to Francis Bacon:

To the royall, ingenious, and all-learned
Knight, Sr. Francis Bacon

Thy Bounty, and the Beauty of thy Witt
Comprised in lists of Law and learned Arts,
Each making thee for great imployment fitt,
Which now thou hast, (though short of thy deserts,)
Compells my Pen to let fall shining Inke
And to bedew the Baies that deck thy Front;
And to thy Health in Helicon to drinke
As, to her Bellamour, the Muse is wont:
For, thou dost her embozom; and, dost use
Her company for sport twixt grave affaires:
And for that all thy Notes are sweetest Aires;
My Muse thus notes thy worth in ev’ry Line,
With ynke which thus she sugars; so, to shine.

So, here, though complimenting Bacon for his wit found in lists of Law and the learned arts, he also mentions “the Baies (bays) that deck thy front” (meaning the poet’s laurel wreath). The waters of Helicon that one would drink referred to the font of literary (especially poetic) inspiration. Davies also implies that Bacon’s Muse accompanies him for his ‘sport’ between grave affairs. Could this ‘sport’ be his hidden poetry and playwrighting? In Bacon’s Promus (notebook) he had an entry that said “Ye law at Twick’nam for merrie tales”. N.B. Cockburn has analyzed this time of Bacon’s life and concludes that this time was between law terms that Bacon spent at his Twickenham residence for writing plays (merry tales).

In any case, there was, in the same book by Davies, one poem addressed to Will Shake-speare and another one to Bacon. But they don’t help us determine whether or not Davies believed Will Shakspere to be the author of the Shake-Speare works, or if he believed him not to be the author and was but helping to keep Bacon’s secret, assuming there was one.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4622

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Heminges and Condell were fellow actors of Shakspere and their names are printed beneath two commendatory poems in the First Folio of the Shake-Speare plays. Heminges is thought to have given up acting in about 1613 and Condell stopping in about 1623.

Despite the subscription of their names to the First Folio epistles, it is most unlikely, as many Stratfordians agree (this according to N.B.Cockburn’s research) that Heminges and Condell, who were probably of little education, drafted either of the poems, especially the first one. The language is too polished for the actors and shows signs of classical learning. For example, the Epistle Dedicatory has close parallels with the Epistle Dedicatory to Pliny’s Natural History. Some conjecture is that either Edward Blount or Ben Jonson had drafted these Folio epistles, who had also written the main commendatory poem as well as the lines beneath the portrait of Shake-Speare. Edmund Malone cited parallels between the epistles and Jonson’s work. One is the rather odd expression of classical origin in the epistle to the Readers, “absolute in their numbers” meaning “perfect”, which Jonson used at least three times elsewhere. For instance, Pliny wrote “a book absolute in all its numbers”. Jonson even used this phrase when writing of Bacon who he cited as one “who hath filled up all the numbers”, meaning everything he wrote was absolutely perfect.

Further evidence of Jonson’s hand in the Epistles supposedly written by Heminges and Condell is found in the first paragraph of the epistle to the Great Variety of Readers. In Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair he has an Induction with articles of agreement between the spectator and the author. This says that “Every person here have his or their free-will of censure, the author having now departed with his right…and it shall be lawful for any man to judge his six-pen’orth, his twelve-pen’orth, so to his eighteen-pence, two shillings, half-a-crown, to the value of his place, provided his place get not above his wit…if he drop but sixpence at the door, and will censure a crown’s worth, it is thought there is no conscience or justice in that”. So, both this Jonson passage and the one in the First Folio seem to make the same point that the extent to which a spectator or reader is entitled to criticize depends on how much he has paid.

We can conclude then that Heminges and Condell are less likely to have drafted the poems ascribed to them than would Jonson. And that their names were merely subscribed to them to convince potential buyers that the texts of the plays were authentic. A similar ploy was used in the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio of 1647 where the dedicatory epistle is subscribed with the names of no fewer than 10 actors. It is hard to suppose that all 10 (if any) had a part in drafting the epistle.

Both poems treat Shake-Speare as the dead fellow of Heminges and Condell. But even if those two colleagues of his had actually drafted them, and knew the secret, they would still have had to pretend that Shake-Speare was their fellow actor Will Shakspere. The general public (in so far as they had heard of Shake-Speare) no doubt believed that, and Heminges and Condell would have had to play along with it in the interests of both Shakspere and of Bacon. Then not a word of either epistle need have been any different from what it was. To have disclosed the truth would have been a betrayal of their dead fellow, whose name would have become a laughing stock, and of Bacon who was still alive and as anxious as ever to preserve his anonymity.

As to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery that the First Folio is dedicated to, they were friends of Bacon and may or may not have been in on the secret. And even if they knew it, they would have realized that the Folio’s promoters either did not know or had to pretend not to.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4625

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Next up in this review of the evidence to support the argument that William Shakspere of Stratford wrote the Shake-Speare plays and poetry will be a look at Ben Jonson. But there will be a few preliminaries before getting to him. One is a reminder that I’m intentionally spelling this name as “Shakspere” instead of Shakespeare because this is a discussion of the authorship question and traditionally this is the spelling that I’ve seen most used to distinguish the man from Stratford from the poet-playwright Shake-Speare, even acknowledging that they may be the same person.

Also, the idea of writing under a pseudonym in the time of Shake-Speare, or in any other time, is not controversial. Authors in Shake-Speare’s time have explicitly said this was done and others have implied such. The author given for any piece of work is generally assumed to be as given, unless good reason is offered to suggest otherwise. Those believing that William of Stratford was the author believe they have sufficient evidence and reason to support their view and don’t need to examine evidence or arguments otherwise, or believe that it has already been examined and found insufficient. Those believing in an alternate author earnestly believe they have evidence to support their view and that it hasn’t been fairly examined.

With the theory that William of Stratford did not actually write the plays and poetry attributed to him there’s been the argument about whether or not this pretense could have been successfully carried out at all. For example, wouldn’t the secret eventually ‘get out’ and then published by his enemies, his fellow actors or by those in the well-connected literary world? So here are a few answers for this question.

We know from the documentary evidence that William Shakspere of Stratford was an experienced actor. He had acted in at least two of Ben Jonson’s plays, and had apparently played the ghost in Hamlet, Caesar in Shake-Speare’s Julius Caesar, and maybe other “kingly parts”. So we know he could comfortably pretend to be other than he was if he wanted to. We also know that he was a successful and, many would say, shrewd businessman. And he was both the instigator and defendant in several lawsuits. So it appears that he was far more likely to be bold and assertive than to be shy, and not afraid of controversy or risk taking. Also, he was known to have a civil demeanor and to have friends among the gentry. If then he were to pretend to be a playwright, as cover to another individual, he should be fully capable of doing so. And to know if someone was actually capable of being a great writer can be nearly impossible without seeing them write this great literature and then reading it oneself. Just as we cannot point out a great musician among a crowd of citizens walking down the street.

Under the alternative authorship theory, if William had also been familiar with the plays, which he may himself have brought from the true author, then he would even have the advantage of being able to make minor changes to the script and add comments during rehearsals. Over time, if his fellow actors and fellow theater managers suspected he wasn’t the true author they just may not have wanted to risk killing the golden goose of their acting income of these popular plays. And none of them may have kept journals where they would even record such suspicions, if this even mattered to them at all. And as to knowledgeable persons in the literature world some of them did seem to doubt William as the author and did write about it, as I’ll cover later.

When it comes to Bacon, if anyone could pull off such a deception of this it is likely him. He was used to writing under different names and a pen name of “Shake-Speare” fits him perfectly, as posted here in the other subject forum. And he was an authority on deception, as partly shown by his essay Of Simulation And Dissimulation.

Interestingly, though many claim that such a secret couldn't be maintained, consider that Bacon was oblivious to the secret plot of his close friend the Earl of Essex who had nearly carried out a plan to depose Queen Elizabeth. Also, the Gunpowder plot had also escaped the knowledge of most until just before it was to be completed.

In comparison, a semi-secret literary life of little consequence does not seem so daunting.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4629

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Since there’s so much material related to Ben Jonson and Shake-Speare and William of Stratford and also of Bacon, and since he’s such a key witness, it will take a series of posts to review the evidence, which I’m primarily taking from N.B. Cockburn, as usual. But I’ll also add other observations from others.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) Part 1

Jonson wrote the principal commendatory poem in the First Folio and to assess its significance we shall have to examine his relationship with both Shakspere and with Bacon. Jonson was 7 years younger than Shakspere and 10 years younger than Bacon. He was the son of a clergyman but was raised by his step-father, a bricklayer, and briefly followed the same trade, after some years as a scholarship student at Westminster School. He was then for a short time a soldier in the Netherlands. On his return he probably supported himself by acting and reworking old plays for the Earl of Pembrok’s company. In 1597 he and his colleagues were thrown into jail for two months for performing the ‘seditious and slanderous’ Isle of Dogs, a play originated by Thomas Nashe, but which Jonson helped to complete. Then, as now, writings that were disapproved of by a reigning power could be censored. Fortunately, in the West at least, we’re no longer thrown into a prison for this. Jonson saw the performance of his first original play, Every man in his Humour in 1598.

His acquaintance with Shakspere perhaps began when that play was staged by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men with Shakspere himself in one of the roles. Nicholas Rowe in his Life of Mr. William Shakespeare related a story, which may not be true, that it was Shakspere himself who persuaded his company to put the play on. Shakspere also acted in Jonson’s Sejanus. Later Jonson knew Shakspere well enough to tell us in the first Folio that he had “small Latin and less Greek”. And in his Timber or Discoveries (1640) Jonson writes: “I loved the man and do honour his memory this side idolatry, as much as any”. However, in the Elizabethan vocabulary, “love” often meant no more than “friendship”. Jonson, who was not homosexual, sometimes ended letters to male friends with valedictions such as "“Your true love"”(see The Works of Ben Jonson edited by Percy Simpson (1925), Vol. 1, p. 190ff). This is the sum of our hard evidence as to the relationship between the two men. But there are various stories about them, mostly hatched in the second half of the 17th century, and none reliable. In one story, for example, the two men jointly compose a humerous epitaph on Jonson. In another, Shakspere, alleged to be godfather to one of Jonson’s children, makes a feeble joke about giving the child Latten spoons for Jonson to translate them. A third story attributes Shakspere’s death to a fever contracted during a bibulous evening with Drayton and Jonson.

Jonson is regarded by Stratfordians as their star witness. So it is necessary to examine carefully all his references to Shake-Speare and Bacon.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4633

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Ben Jonson (1572-1637) Part 2

Jonson’s References to Shake-Speare

1. Sogliardo

In Jonson’s Every man out of his Humour (1599) Act .3.1.2010-47, Sogliardo, described as an “essential clown” and whose name is Italian for “filth”, has just acquired a Coat of Arms, and the following conversation ensues between Sogliardo and Puntarvolo:

Sog: I’ faith, I thank god I can write myself Gentleman now, here’s my patent, it cost me thirty pound by this breath.
Punt: A very fair coat, well charged and full of armoury.
Sog: Nay, it has as much variety of colours in it, as you have seen a coat have; how like you the crest, Sir?
Punt: I understand it now well, what is’t?
Sog: Marry Sir, it is your Boar without a head, rampante.
Punt: A boar without a head; that’s very rare!
Carlo: I, and rampant too; troth, I commend the Herald’s wit, he has decyphered him well: a Swine without a head, without braine, wit, anything indeed, ramping to gentilitie. You can blazon the rest, signior, can you not?

Punt: Let the word be, Not without mustard. Your crest is very rare, Sir.


Cockburn Comment: This is plainly a dig at Shakspere whose father (no doubt with Shakespere’s encouragement) had acquired a Coat of Arms in 1596 with the motto Non sanz droict [Not without right]. “Marry Sir, it is your Boar without a head, rampante” tells that the gentleman Puntarvolo’s own crest featured a boar (unless “your Boar” means only “a boar, an animal you are familiar with”). Jonson gives Sogliardo’s crest a headless boar to symbolise boorish stupidity. “Not without mustard” is a parody of Non sanz droict and enjoins Shakspere not to eat boar without mustard. Bacon’s crest too featured a boar, and the Baconians interpret the above lines as meaning that Bacon was the “head” in the partnership between Shakspere and Bacon. But there is likewise a boar in the crests of Sir Philip Sidney and the Earl of Oxford. Jonson probably gave Sogliardo’s crest a boar because it was thus a familiar patrician emblem, and lent itself to Jonson’s joke. So the lines throw no light on whether Jonson believed Shakspere to be Shake-Speare.
My comments: On the other hand, if this is ‘plainly a dig at Shakspere”, and if Jonson chose to use a headless boar to “symbolise boorish stupidity” in the character, then it’s not far-fetched to think also that Jonson, at that time in 1599, was additionally implying that he thought Shakspere was not-well educated and not an intellectual. This is emphasized by the words of the character Carlo that followed. Remember that Jonson had likely seen William act in his play Every Man in his Humour from just a year earlier.

Then again, one who disagrees with the above comment by Cockburn says that current research shows that William Shakspere never used ‘Not without right’ as a motto. And furthermore, that Jonson’s play was performed at the Globe by The Chamberlain’s Men where William Shakspere was a shareholder and would never have allowed such insults of himself played on the stage.

On the other hand, again, the phrase ‘Not without right’ is shown in large letters on his coat of arms patent. Here’s the link to an image of it along with some further commentary by an Oxfordian:

http://politicworm.com/oxford-shakespea ... t-mustard/

Also, regarding the statement that Will Shakspere would not have allowed such a play to insult him, that’s pure speculation, especially since it suggests someone can know the motivation of someone he has never met and that had lived hundreds of years before, and of whom we have no personal letters of to even know how this person may have thought. Perhaps William, if he was the great Shake-Speare, wouldn’t have been bothered that a rival playwright was satirizing him. Maybe he would have just laughed it off. Also, assuming the play’s words above do refer to William, as they seem to fit him extremely well, it would not be likely that more than a few of the regular audience would realize who they were aimed at.
Last Edit: 7 years 1 month ago by Unfoldyourself.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4636

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Ben Jonson (1572-1637) Part 2

Jonson’s References to Shake-Speare

2. Poor Poet Ape

This next item is no more than a possible reference to Shake-Speare. In 1616 Jonson published a collection of Epigrams (as part of the Folio of his Works), though they were written some years earlier. No. 56 reads:

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 t’was 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.

Cockburn Comment: “Poet ape” means “Someone who aped poets”; in other words a bad would-be poet. Thus Sir Philip Sidney said in his The Defence of Poesy (1595): “The cause why it is not esteemed in England is the fault of poet-apes, not of poets”. Jonson in his plays twice used the term of actors who aspired to write poetry, but a poet ape could be anyone. So it is wrong to assume, as some have, that the poet ape of Jonson’s epigram was necessarily an actor. He has often been thought to be Shake-Speare. I doubt this because Shake-Speare did not buy the reversion of old plays, except possibly for King John and Hamlet, and did not plagiarize to the extent the epigram alleges. Some have proposed Dekker or Marston. How about Thomas Heywood? Louis B. Wright in his Middle Class Culture in Elizabethan England, p. 629, wrote: “Though Jonson gave an immense stimulus to the drama of London life, he was no such idol of the multitude as was Thomas Heywood”. Perhaps Jonson resented Heywood’s popularity Another possibility I think, is that the poet ape may have been, not a specific poet, merely a type of poet. However, if he was Shake-Speare, the relevant point for our purposes is that Jonson evidently believed him to be Shakspere since “And told of this he slights it” could not apply to Bacon, nor would Jonson have written of Bacon in such a hostile tone.

My comment: I considered not including in this review this possible Jonson reference to Shake-Speare, since there is so little that can be gleaned from it. I’ve read some of both the “anti-Stratfordian” interpretation as well as a rebuttal of that interpretation. And along with Cockburn’s analysis it’s clear that there’s no justification for claiming it is about Shake-Speare and William of Stratford, though it would seem (from the anti-Stratfordian point of view) to jibe with what Robert Greene had written of the “shake-scene”. Such an interpretation is self-serving and won’t stand up to scrutiny. But I think it does provide a glimpse into the character of the theater world in Elizabethan England and of the rivalries and controversies and allegations then. It also is another example of the indirect references to events and to others that writers used to vent, warn, or to cajole others.
Last Edit: 7 years 1 month ago by Unfoldyourself.
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A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence 7 years 1 month ago #4637

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Ben Jonson (1572-1637) Part 2

Jonson’s References to Shake-Speare

3. The Drummond Conversations

In the winter of 1618/1619 Jonson walked all the way to Scotland where he had conversations with William Drummond, a poet. Jonson told him that Shake-Speare “wanted art…in a play [The Winter’s Tale] he had brought in a number of men saying they had suffered shipwreck in Bohemia, where there is no sea near by some 100 miles”. By 1618 Jonson idolised Bacon and would not have been so derisive about him.

Though Cockburn had little to say on Jonson’s conversations with Drummond, I find some of the most interesting comments to have come from Sir George Greenwood in his Ben Johnson and Shakespeare (1921). These are quoted in full:

But some four years before the appearance of the Folio of 1623, viz.: in January, 1619, Jonson was staying with Drummond of Hawthornden, and Drummond made notes of his conversation, and, under the title, or heading, "His Acquaintance and Behaviour with poets living with him," we have recorded remarks made by Ben concerning Daniel, Drayton, Beaumont, Sir John Roe, Marston, Markham, Day, Middleton, Chapman, Fletcher, and others. What do we find concerning Shakspere? "That Shakspere wanted arte. . . . Shakspeer in a play, brought in a number of men saying they had suffered shipwrack in Bohemia, where there is no sea neer by some 100 miles." Here, then, we have Jonson unbosoming himself in private conversation with his host and friend, and this, apparently, is all he has to say about the great bard who, only four years afterwards, he was to laud to the skies as the "Soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage." We would have expected to find whole pages of eulogy, in Drummond's notes, of the poet who "was not of an age but for all time," instead of which we have only these two carping little bits of criticism: "That Shakspeer wanted (i.e., lacked) arte"—a curious remark to have proceeded from the mouth of him who wrote, in the Folio lines, that a poet must be "made as well as born"; that Nature must be supplemented by art; and that in Shakespeare's case such art was not lacking, but, on the contrary, was conspicuous "in his well-turned and true-filed lines." And then that niggling bit of criticism concerning the coast of Bohemia in The Winter's Tale, taken straight from the learned Greene's novel of Dorastus and Fawnia, which may be compared with the depreciatory allusion to Julius Caesar in the Discoveries. As Professor Herford remarks, "It is significant that both in the Conversations 'and the Discoveries,' where high praise is given to others, Jonson only notes in the case of Shakespeare his deficiency in qualities on which he himself set a very high value." (Article on Jonson in Dic. Nat. Biog.)

Now, though this shows that Jonson, at that time at least, believed that William Shakspere was the playwright Shake-Speare, it also demonstrates that we can’t take Jonson’s panegyric of Shake-Speare in the First Folio at face value as genuinely believing that he was “the star of poets”. His job was to get the folio ready for publication and to give it a good send off to the marketplace. Of course, this isn’t any new realization, but many people I come across offer it as proof, not only of Jonson’s belief of William’s authorship, but also of his true feelings toward him. A good description of this is by Andrew Lang in his Shakespeare, Bacon, and the Great Unknown, who in his rebuttal to Greenwood’s views above, said:

“In 1619, Ben spoke gruffly and briefly of Shakespeare, as to Drummond he also spoke disparagingly of Beaumont, whom he had panegyrized in an epigram in his own folio of 1616, and was again to praise in the commendatory verses in the Folio. He spoke still more harshly of Drayton, whom in 1616 he had compared to Homer, Virgil, Theocritus, and Tyraeus! He told an unkind anecdote of Marston, whith whom he had first quarreled and then made friends, collaborating with him in a play; and very generously and to his great peril, sharing his imprisonment. To Drummond, Jonson merely said that he :beat Marston and took away his pistol.” Of Sir John Beaumont, brother of the dramatist, Ben had written a most hyperbolical eulogy in verse; luckily for Sir John, to Drummond Ben did not speak of him. Such was Ben, in panegyric verse hyperbolical; in conversation “a despiser of others, and praiser of himself….Yet I have proved that Ben was the least consistent of critics, all depended on the occasion, and on his humour at the moment. This is a commonplace of literary history”.

Mr. Lang was one Stratfordian that believed that Jonson’s “Poet ape” actually did refer to William Shakspere and that he wouldn’t hesitate to direct his anger and envy at other playwrights, or would be poet-playwrights, as he did in Every man out of his Humour.
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