The Shakespeare Authorship question continues to fascinate me. It already hijacked the largest chapter (4) of my book:
When in 1989 I first discovered that the authorship issue was alive, previously having dismissed prospective candidates like Bacon and Marlowe as simply incongruent with the whole range and tenour of the works, - despite that this left me with the gaping hole and enigma of the utterly unknown quantity of the Stratford man, - which was when I discovered Charlton Ogburn's book on Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford
although my heart leapt with excitement at discovering at last a real human being as the author, I did not feel any certainty at that time regarding that attribution. I am nearer to it now - but there are possible discoveries which could still overthrow my belief. It remains a hypothesis circumstantially established and, as Jimmy Pitt in PG Wodehouse's A Gentleman of Leisure remarks, this circumstantial evidence business is the devil, isn't it?
This also gives it a force of fascination for speculative and imaginative exploration. I can indulge that a little here, whereas when I am arguing on a pro-Stratfordian Blog such as Oliver Kamm's,
I am having to deal with the extreme caricaturing of those unwilling to dialogue with or seek to understand their opponents' positions. One of the elements in a good deal of psychotherapy which makes it important to me is the willingness to enter into and seek to understand belief-states and life-positions different from our own, which also Keats saw as the quality of the 'chameleon poet', for which Shakespeare was his paradigm (Letter to Richard Woodhouse, October 27th, 1818):
"As to the poetical Character itself (I mean that sort of which, if I am any thing, I am a Member; that sort distinguished from the wordsworthian or egotistical sublime; which is a thing per se and stands alone) it is not itself - it has no self - it is every thing and nothing - It has no character - it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated - It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the camelion Poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than from its taste for the bright one; because they both end in speculation. A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity - he is continually in for - and filling some other Body - The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute - the poet has none; no identity - he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God's Creatures. If then he has no self, and if I am a Poet, where is the Wonder that I should say I would write no more? Might I not at that very instant have been cogitating on the Characters of Saturn and Ops? It is a wretched thing to confess; but is a very fact that not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature - how can it, when I have no nature? When I am in a room with People if I ever am free from speculating on creations of my own brain, then not myself goes home to myself: but the identity of every one in the room begins so to press upon me that I am in a very little time annihilated - not only among Men; it would be the same in a Nursery of children: I know not whether I make myself wholly understood: I hope enough so to let you see that no despondence is to be placed on what I said that day."
Anyway, to get to the point, and it is one of those points which one holds in ones mind excitedly till one begins to try to write it down, is that, whereas in The Muse as Therapist I was, as it were, viewing Edward de Vere through the eyes of Shakespeare, particularly through Hamlet and King Lear, I think the reverse is beginning to happen, I am viewing Shakespeare through the eyes of de Vere. What does that mean? What is the excitement of that? Even if we know a bit more about Edward de Vere as a writer and creative force than we do about William Shakespeare of Stratford, it is still only a little, and there are huge holes in it. But there is enough to get something of a foothold.
We get a sense of a mercurial, masterful, sometimes extremely narcissistic, selfish darkly sinister demonic human being, in some ways, who nevertheless was not incapable of penitence, a man with more than a touch of madness about him, as we would expect in the author of Hamlet, King Lear, Coriolanus, and Macbeth. Someone who, even though Nina Green is in the process of showing that his inheritance was cannibalised systematically by Queen Elizabeth, aided and abetted by the Earl of Leicester,
was nevertheless to a massive degree a wastrel and a squanderer, an 'unthrift' as he is unkindly called by the tenacious money-maker Walter Scott in Kenilworth, someone much more like Falstaff than Shylock!
We get a sense of his mercurial fascinating, hateful, contemptible, elusive, yet still hypnotic and compelling character in Gabriel Harvey's Speculum Tuscanismi where his Italianate style also is ridiculed!
Since Galateo came in, and Tuscanism gan usurp,
Vanity above all: villainy next her, stateliness Empress
No man but minion, stout, lout, plain, swain, quoth a Lording:
No words but valorous, no works but womanish only.
For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in show,
In deed most frivolous, not a look but Tuscanish always.
His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamy smirking,
With forefinger kiss, and brave embrace to the footward.
Large bellied Cod-pieced doublet, uncod-pieced half hose,
Straight to the dock like a shirt, and close to the britch like a diveling.
A little Apish flat couched fast to the pate like an oyster,
French camarick ruffs, deep with a whiteness starched to the purpose.
Every one A per se A, his terms and braveries in print,
Delicate in speech, quaint in array: conceited in all points,
In Courtly guiles a passing singular odd man,
For Gallants a brave Mirror, a Primrose of Honour,
A Diamond for nonce, a fellow peerless in England.
Not the like discourser for Tongue, and head to be found out,
Not the like resolute man for great and serious affairs,
Not the like Lynx to spy out secrets and privities of States,
Eyed like to Argus, eared like to Midas, nos'd like to Naso,
Wing'd like to Mercury, fittst of a thousand for to be employ'd,
This, nay more than this, doth practice of Italy in one year.
None do I name, but some do I know, that a piece of a twelve month
Hath so perfited outly and inly both body, both soul,
That none for sense and senses half matchable with them.
A vulture's smelling, Ape's tasting, sight of an eagle,
A spider's touching, Hart's hearing, might of a Lion.
Compounds of wisdom, wit, prowess, bounty, behavior,
All gallant virtues, all qualities of body and soul.
O thrice ten hundred thousand times blessed and happy,
Blessed and happy travail, Travailer most blessed and happy.
Tell me in good sooth, doth it not too evidently appear
that this English poet wanted but a good pattern before his eyes,
as it might be some delicate and choice elegant Poesy
of good Master Sidney's or Master Dyer's
(our very Castor and Pollux for such and many greater matters)
when this trim gear was in the matching?
The qualities of Shakespeare which correspond to his mercurial character are many. Queen Mab, who so fascinated Berlioz in Romeo and Juliet
O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spiders' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies ' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she--
True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind, who wooes
Even now the frozen bosom of the north,
And, being anger'd, puffs away from thence,
Turning his face to the dew-dropping south.
Again, the marvellous character of Bottom's dream in Midsummer Nights Dream, with its stream of Pauline reminscences - but it is this elusive dancing mercurial element I am trying to evoke:
[Awaking] When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer: my next is, 'Most fair Pyramus.' Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout,
the tinker! Starveling! God's my life, stolen
hence, and left me asleep! I have had a most rare
vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was--there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,--and
methought I had,--but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom's Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play, before the duke:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.
The great drama of persuasion, Julius Caesar, embodies these qualities in both Cassius and Mark Antony. Here now is Cassius seducing Brutus:
I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus,
As well as I do know your outward favour.
Well, honour is the subject of my story.
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.
I was born free as Caesar; so were you:
We both have fed as well, and we can both
Endure the winter's cold as well as he:
For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
Caesar said to me 'Darest thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood,
And swim to yonder point?' Upon the word,
Accoutred as I was, I plunged in
And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
The torrent roar'd, and we did buffet it
With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
And stemming it with hearts of controversy;
But ere we could arrive the point proposed,
Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!'
I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
Did I the tired Caesar. And this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
A wretched creature and must bend his body,
If Caesar carelessly but nod on him.
He had a fever when he was in Spain,
And when the fit was on him, I did mark
How he did shake: 'tis true, this god did shake;
His coward lips did from their colour fly,
And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world
Did lose his lustre: I did hear him groan:
Ay, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans
Mark him and write his speeches in their books,
Alas, it cried 'Give me some drink, Titinius,'
As a sick girl. Ye gods, it doth amaze me
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world
And bear the palm alone.
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that 'Caesar'?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with 'em,
Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar.
Now, in the names of all the gods at once,
Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,
That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed!
Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!
When went there by an age, since the great flood,
But it was famed with more than with one man?
When could they say till now, that talk'd of Rome,
That her wide walls encompass'd but one man?
Now is it Rome indeed and room enough,
When there is in it but one only man.
O, you and I have heard our fathers say,
There was a Brutus once that would have brook'd
The eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
As easily as a king.
Well I can go on - but I just wanted to convey that somewhat hysterical imaginative-creative quality which is always there in Shakespeare, and which is equally there in the splenetic diatribe of Gabriel Harvey. Yet in Shakespeare always authority also.
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lover's eyes.
But then, in parallel, we have this, from the commendatory verses at the beginning of Spenser's The Fairie Queene:
TO looke vpon a worke of rare deuise
The which a workman setteth out to view,
And not to yield it the deserued prise,
That vnto such a workmanship is dew,
Doth either proue the iudgement to be naught
Or els doth shew a mind with enuy fraught.
To labour to commend a peece of worke,
Which no man goes about to discommend,
Would raise a iealous doubt that there did lurke
Some secret doubt, whereto the prayse did tend.
For when men know the goodnes of the wyne,
Tis needlesse for the hoast to haue a sygne.
Thus then to shew my iudgement to be such
As can discern of colours blacke, and white,
As alls to free my minde from enuies tuch,
That neuer giues to any man his right,
I here pronounce this workmanship is such,
As that no pen can set it forth too much.
And thus I hang a garland at the dore,
Not for to shew the goodnes of the ware:
But such hath beene the custome heretofore,
And customes very hardly broken are.
And when your tast shall tell you this is trew,
Then looke you giue your hoast his vtmost dew.
This is by 'Ignoto' the unknown one. It moves mazily within the narcissistic predicament with the same subtle skill as the author of the Sonnets. And this is matched in tone by Spenser's own poem to Oxford, which evokes the narcissism without shame!
REceiue most Noble Lord in gentle gree,
The vnripe fruit of an vnready wit:
Which by thy countenaunce doth craue to bee
Defended from foule Enuies poisnous bit.
Which so to doe may thee right well befit,
Sith th'antique glory of thine auncestry
Vnder a shady vele is therein writ,
And eke thine owne long liuing memory,
Succeeding them in true nobility:
And also for the loue, which thou doest beare
To th'Heliconian ymps, and they to thee,
They vnto thee, and thou to them most deare:
Deare as thou art unto thy selfe, so loue
That loues & honours thee, as doth behoue.
And here I shall break off for now!