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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Is John Shakespeare the Figure in the Stratford Monument?


Hollar Engraving of the Holy Trinity
Church Shakespeare Monument executed
from the sketch of William Dugdale.
Several weeks ago, I posted Waugh-Bate Debate #2 [link] explaining why one of Dr. Bate’s “facts” in the Great Debate was in fact not a fact.  Relating, as it did, to the Stratford Shakespeare Monument, at Holy Trinity Church, I went on to discuss burial practices at the time of the Stratford man’s death, in my next post What Hamlet’s Gravedigger Teaches Us [Link]

In the latter post, I promised to next “examine the theory that the monument actually first belonged to William Shakspere’s father, John.”  Richard Kennedy first made the claim, in 2006, that the figure in the niche at Holy Trinity was not William Shakspere, of Stratford-upon-Avon, but his father John.  It gained such attention that even Dr. Bate and Stratford curmudgeon Stanley Wells were unable to remain silent on the matter [Link].  Letters were exchanged in The Times.

The John Shakspere "Woolpack Man" theory seems to have faded away.  Most of the Internet texts and chatter exist no longer.  I suspect that Mr. Kennedy and his supporters will feel that, under the circumstances, I cannot possibly do it justice.

But what remains does not so much suggest the theory needs to be refuted in its specifics but that positive facts need to be presented in favor of the monument having definitively been constructed for William.  Towards this end, a more probable alternative explanation for John Shakspere’s burial needs to be presented.  This I began with Hamlet’s Gravedigger.

There are small mysteries enough about the graves below the Shakespeare niche.  None of them, however, changes the fact that the niche is surrounded by the wife and children of William Shakspere, not John.  Mary Arden, John’s wife, is nowhere to be found.  Instead we find William’s wife Anne.  William’s brother, and business partner, Gilbert is nowhere to be found.  Only Susanna, adult daughter of William and Anne, and her spouse and son-in-law are found.

But it is a similar lack that tempts us to theorize that John Shakspere could rest somehow beneath the monument or in the grave beside Anne which goes without a name.  That and the need to explain the Dugdale sketch of the figure in the niche of the Shakespeare monument.  The imagination abhors a vacuum.  Or we can say that it “loves” a vacuum for giving it free play.  The vacuum, in this instance, was the lack of a grave for the elder Shakespeare, the lack of a specific name on the grave below the niche on the far side of Anne Hathaway-Shakespeare and the need to explain the anomalous “sack” upon which the figure in the niche was resting his arms.



I have referred to the sack in question as a sack of grain.  This cannot be placed entirely beyond dispute.  The woolsack of Mr. Kennedy’s theory is possible and could suggest John Shakspere who was a wool broker as well as a glover and a usurer.  William, on the other hand, was a grain broker, quite possibly a usurer, a real estate speculator and investor in theater shares.  For those who love the idea that the Stratford William wrote the works of Shakespeare, it is sacrilege to assert that the sack was ever anything but a writing cushion (whatever precisely might possess one to write upon a cushion).  So then, the sack could be any one of several things and can be of no determinative value.

William’s grain brokering, however, is of great importance here.  We are told for centuries, by the representatives of Holy Trinity Church, in Stratford, and our best Shakespeare scholars, that William Shakspere had a right to burial in the church by virtue of having purchased one Ralph Hubaud’s half-share of the Trinity Church tithes in 1605.  The reason there was a need to sell the tithes is that they were paid in kind.  The Great Tithe was paid in grain and hay.  The Lesser Tithe raised a much smaller amount and was paid in other farm products (including wool).  The church needed a quick and convenient way to turn the goods into cash for its coffers.[1]  The way they did this was to sell (i.e. lease the rights to) the goods to someone who would resell them for a profit.  For these reasons, I have grown in the habit of calling the sack a “sack of grain”.  It was the symbol of his right to burial within the church as well as his brokering wealth.[2]

But what of the statue William Dugdale sketched during his visit to Holy Trinity in 1634?  Even Oxfordians are shocked to think that the likeness is of William.  Surely it was an older, less sophisticated man.  Surely it was his father John.

But no.  The likeness is not necessarily inconsistent with an image of the sophisticated commoner of the time.  Dugdale’s sketch could be a very rough approximation of the Stratford man.  The epitaph that Shakspere chose for his gravestone rounds out a very recognizable scene:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forebeare
To digg the dust enclosed heare;
 Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones

I have already declared my understanding, in my Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof,  that the old statue probably had little or nothing more than the bare name of its owner and the epitaph is original.  The rest declaring him “GENIO SOCRATEM,” etc., was later added to the monument.

But why, then, doesn’t John Shakspere have a tomb?  After all, he held prominent Stratford town offices... [Next>>>]




[1] Shakespeare Documented.  “Assignment from Ralph Hubaud of Ipsley, esquire, to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman, of a lease of a half-share of the great tithes of Old Stratford, Welcombe and Bishopton, and the lesser tithes of the whole parish.”  http://www.shakespearedocumented.org/exhibition/document/assignment-ralph-hubaud-ipsley-esquire-william-shakespeare-stratford-upon-avon. 'the great tithes, on grain and hay, for Old Stratford, Bishopton and Welcombe, and what became known as the “lesser” tithes, on wool, lambs and other minor produce such as eggs and dairy produce of the whole parish'.  The wool still keeps the idea of the wool-sack alive as a Shakespeare family symbol.
[2] Ibid.  The description, here, of the various transactions correctly states that Shaksper’s son-in-law John Hall surrendered the lease in 1625 but gets the amount of the bond wrong by an order of ten.  Hubaud’s performance bond was for £80.

  • Waugh-Bate Debate #2: the Facts of John Weever's Transcription. June 24, 2018.  ‘“Let us begin with the facts,” Jonathan Bate quite rightly suggests as he launches the initial salvo of his argument for William Shaksper as the poet and playwright William Shakespeare.  His years of public speaking serve him well as he launches into his opening statement in the recent debate between himself and Alexander Waugh.  What could argue his case better, or more simply, than "the facts"?’



Sunday, July 01, 2018

What Hamlet’s Gravedigger Teaches Us.


In my previous post — “Waugh-Bate Debate #2: the Facts ofJohn Weever's Transcription” [link] — I address Jonathan Bate’s erroneous claim that “[the Stratford Shakespeare] monument was transcribed within a year of [Shaksper’s] death [in 1616].”  In this post, I begin a further exploration of the probable facts regarding the Monument.

“How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot?” Hamlet asks the gravedigger in the play Hamlet.  He receives an extended answer that is not only highly amusing but informative.  But how did this  gravedigger know so much about how bodies preserve in the grave?  Was he some kind of ghoul who surreptitiously went around exhuming bodies?

At a point he presents Hamlet with the skull of Yorrick the one time court jester.  But how, out of all skulls in England, did he know to whom that particular skull belonged?

Actually, he was just a much funnier than usual but otherwise normal practitioner of his craft.  In England land was at a premium.  Land to expand graveyards simply was not available. Gravedigger’s dug up as many bodies as they buried.  In this instance, the gravedigger was digging up Yorrick’s grave, as he conversed with Hamlet, in order for it to host a new occupant.

Graves were continually reused.  The less the family of the dead could donate, the shorter their loved one’s lease on his or her bit of ground.  For this reason, 19th century accounts of the “God’s Acre” graveyard, beside ancient Holy Trinity Church, in Stratford-upon-Avon, recount no earlier date on any gravestone than 1672.  While reference was often made, in those days, to rising from one’s grave to meet one’s final judgment, for the vast majority of people it was a euphemism, a comforting myth.

Graves within the church building, however, were a different matter.  First of all, they cost a lot of money.  Even then, other factors must be met.  Shakespeare’s monument, for example, is said to have been permitted to him in lieu of having purchased church tithes for the last 10 or so years of his life.  While no documentary evidence of such a custom seems to be available, it has long been spoken of as an established fact even by Trinity historians.  Regardless, he had to have donated a lot of money, in addition, in order to be provided a grave within the church.  More still to have space assigned to host a monument.  Even then, it is quite possible that he would have been removed before now if he hadn’t become such a lucrative source of post-mortem income.


Historians have regularly observed, over the centuries, that Shakespeare’s monument was not at all the result of his having been The Bard but rather of his having purchased the tithes.  I’ve made my position clear, in my Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof [link], that the monument existed for the memory of a wealthy man of the town who had sufficient funds to buy the space and material and to engage the sculptor.  That man put no touches on his monument to indicate that he had written so much as a single line of a single play or poem.  What he did compose as a swatch of doggerel for his grave that makes clear that he was barely literate.

The William Shakspere of the monument proudly presented a bag of grain to the world, the source, together with usury, real estate, and theater shares, of most of his considerable wealth and of his right to a grave within the chancel.  He had every right to  be proud.  Barely able to write, he had proved to be a highly energetic, industrious and wily investor.  He was a man constantly on the watch for opportunity and able to recognize it when he saw it.  In today’s money, at the end of his life he was a millionaire.

As for what followed, I quote from my  Edward de Vere was Shakespeare:

Prior to 1623, the playwright and poet Shake-speare had no flesh and blood.  Shakspere’s frauds [selling the playwright’s manuscripts as his own — one of his less savory revenue streams] were known only by a very few, among the general public, and probably believed by fewer still.  With the publication of a “collected plays,” questions were sure to be asked, and persisted in, about who this Shake-speare had been, why there was no record at all of the man behind the name.  For this reason, and several others, Pavier was effectively ordered to cease publication and the Herberts set about “doing the thing right”.
It was probably at this time, while checking out the actual fate of the player, since his exit from London, that the group became aware that he had a funerary monument and a crypt in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.  A plaque was struck declaring him to have been the Immortal Bard and quietly appeared below the likeness.[1]

Mine is not the majority opinion as to the nature of the monument.  In the posts to follow, I will present the evidence of the matter.  I submit that the evidence will powerfully support my position and no other.

First I will examine the theory that the monument actually first belonged to William Shakspere’s father, John. [Next>>>]




[1] Purdy, Gilbert Wesley.  Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof. Richmond, VA.: The Virtual Vanaprastha, 2013. xxix & xxx.

  • Waugh-Bate Debate #2: the Facts of John Weever's Transcription. June 24, 2018.  ‘“Let us begin with the facts,” Jonathan Bate quite rightly suggests as he launches the initial salvo of his argument for William Shaksper as the poet and playwright William Shakespeare.  His years of public speaking serve him well as he launches into his opening statement in the recent debate between himself and Alexander Waugh.  What could argue his case better, or more simply, than "the facts"?’
  • The Great Waugh-Bate Debate #1: Steven Steinburg’s Rebuttal and Alexander Waugh’s Encrypted Polimanteia. February 01, 2018. “All of this said, I felt that Alexander Waugh started off slowly but continually grew stronger as the debate proceeded.  He did well.  Jonathan Bate, on the other hand, is a much more effective public speaker.  For all of his many errors, he probably appeared to the general public to be the more knowledgeable party.”
  • Falstaff's Sack. August 7, 2017.  'The question Mr. Hart addresses is “Just what is sack?”.  This is not the first time the question has been addressed but his is a particularly thorough attempt at an answer.'
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Waugh-Bate Debate #2: the Facts of John Weever's Transcription.

John Weever
“Let us begin with the facts,” Jonathan Bate quite rightly suggests as he launches the initial salvo of his argument for William Shaksper as the poet and playwright William Shakespeare.  His years of public speaking serve him well as he launches into his opening statement in the recent debate between himself and Alexander Waugh.  What could argue his case better, or more simply, than "the facts"?

The facts, however, have troubling discontinuities that Oxfordians (those who believe the Earl of Oxford wrote most if not all of the works attributed to the penname “Shakespeare”) tend to highlight to the considerable annoyance of the Stratfordian community (those who believe William Shaksper wrote most if not all of the works attributed to Shakespeare).

For one good example of a fact, Bate makes clear that proper names often exhibited a wide variation in spelling for the same person in the 16th and early 17th centuries.  We are agreed on that and my spelling “Shaksper” above is meant only to make a distinction between the Stratford man and the playwright for purposes of clarity.

But, again, there are discontinuities in the Stratfordian narrative.  Since the Authorship debate has become more competitive, Stratfordians have come into the habit of declaring “facts” based upon insufficient, minor evidence (if it can qualify as “evidence,” at all).  If we examine Mr.Bate’s claim at 21:06 in the YouTube video [link] we will unfortunately find him trying to sneak in a “fact” that is not even remotely proven for all that a book edited by legitimate scholars forwarded it some ten years ago in a weak attempt to quash an Oxfordian talking point: “That [i.e. the Stratford Shakespeare] monument was transcribed within a year of his [i.e. Shaksper’s] death.”

This talking point is key to overcoming the historical fact that there is no record of a Shakespeare funeral monument existing, in Stratford-upon-Avon (or anywhere), until it is mentioned in the front matter to the 1623 First Folio of the plays of Shakespeare.  For anyone who supports the Stratford man (who died in 1616) as the author of the plays, this is an annoying lacuna.  How could seven-plus years pass with no one commenting upon the funeral monument of one of England’s great poets?  Why don’t the Trinity Church records clarify the matter?  Why do no letters from travelers mention it until after the 1620s?

Oxfordians suggest, as the rule, that the monument and the myth of the Stratford author both appeared for the first time in 1623 together with modifications to the simple original monument of a nearly illiterate and notably successful hustler in commodities and loan shark (the latter employment only suggested not proven).  Of course, from the Stratfordian perspective something had to be done. Toward the end of the last century, a transcription from the monument, rediscovered among the papers of the antiquarian John Weever, began to hold out promise.  Since then Stratfordians have circled around the undated entry among undated papers.


While sufficient supporting evidence could not be found, those scholars did notice that there was a another transcription in the same group of Weever “notebooks” from the 1618 tomb of Ferdinando Heybourne.  Also a date that served less well but was worth mentioning.  The transcription from Sir Thomas Gerard’s tomb presents the date of his death as 1618.[1]  Inconveniently, history knows its construction was delayed for an unknown period of time while his son raised funds.  Still some number of Stratfordians are sure that it couldn’t have waited more than a couple of years to be completed.

In 2007, Katherine Duncan-Jones and H. Woudhuysen attempted to forward a claim that the notebooks established that Weever had visited Tong Church, another site of Shakespearean interest, in that year.[2]  At the same time they quietly inserted an entirely created fact that the trip somehow included a stop to do some transcribing in distant Stratford-Upon-Avon:

The latest date in the booklet, which also records his visit to Stratford-Upon- Avon, where he copies down the lines on Shakespeare’s own grave…[3]
The claim that “the booklet” (they’ve forgotten that there are more than one) “also records his visit to Stratford-Upon- Avon” is an intentional misrepresentation.  None of the booklets overtly mentions any visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Nor do they outline an itinerary that passes through the town.

Their evidence that Weever undertook a tour of various tombs, occurring in about 1618, which “also records his visit to Stratford-upon-Avon,” where there was the opportunity to transcribe the text of the monument to Shakespeare, is that there is an undated transcription from the monument of Shakespeare at the end of entirely undated notebooks that include a single reference to the year 1618.  There is no direct statement, dated or undated, anywhere in Weever’s papers that he ever visited Stratford.

Nevertheless, the date seems to have become a Stratfordian fact (which our Mr. Bate has for some reason seen fit to shorten to “one” year after the Stratford man’s death).  The purported evidence for this claim is insufficient by professional standards in every way but Oxfordians are annoying and something simply has to be done.

The exceptional Shakespeare Documented site shows two faces on the matter, perhaps loath to challenge the home team.  Their digital reproduction of the page in question from Weever’s notebooks [link] is labeled “1617-1619”.  The text that follows, however, gives the proper state of the evidence:

Weever made his transcriptions some time between Shakespeare’s death in April 1616 and Weever’s own death in 1632. Later in his notebook, Weever records the “sumptuous” monument of Sir Gilbert Gerard in Ashley, Staffordshire (p. 21). While Sir Gilbert died in 1593, Weever records that “by his side” is the monument of his son, Sir Thomas Gerard, asserting that the latter “dyed” on October 7, 1617 (perhaps extrapolating from Sir Thomas’s will, dated October 6, 1617). Sir Thomas Gerard actually died on January 15, 1618. Considering that a monument might require a year for carving and installation, and because no later monument is recorded in the notebook [itallics mine], a reasonable supposition is that Weever’s notes were compiled in or about 1619.[4]

The dating presented should, by their own assessment, properly read “1616-1632”.



[1] Another version of the Gerard facts is given in a Shakespeare Documented page quoted below.
[2] Shakespeare Poems, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones and H. R. Woudhuysen (London, 2007), 438 ff.
[3] Ibid., 438.
[4] Shakespeare Documented.  “John Weever’s transcription of verses from Shakespeare’s monument and tomb” http://www.shakespearedocumented.org/exhibition/document/john-weever-s-transcription-verses-shakespeare-s-monument-and-tomb


  • Dating Edward de Vere's Sonnet 110. May 21, 2018. “Shake-speare the poet was now Shake-speare writer for the common stage.  Those who knew he was The Bard, but only knew him as the poet, now knew that he was the person who had written the plays,…”
  • Edward de Vere's Memorial For His Son, Who Died at Birth May 1583.  July 5, 2017.  "The brief Viscount Bulbeck being the son of the renowned poet and playwright Edward de Vere, we might have hoped to have the text of the father’s own memorial poem.  As far as traditional literary history is concerned, no such poem has yet been discovered."
  • Crocodiles, Prester John and where the Earle of Oxenford wasn't.  January 10, 2018.  “From Cairo he is taken next as part of a 500,000 man military force to conquer the land of Prester John.  That wondrous mythical medieval king also has giant sluices at his control and drowns 60,000 Turks.”
  • Enter John Lyly.  October 18, 2016.  "From time to time, Shakespeare Authorship aficionados query after the name “John Lyly”.  This happens surprisingly little given the outsized role the place-seeker, novelist and playwright played in the lives of the playwright William Shakespeare and Edward de Vere."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.




Monday, June 18, 2018

The Brooke-Camden Feud and a Presentation Copy of the First Folio, p. 2.


Heraldry matters were taken so seriously that Brooke’s was at least once briefly put in prison for his antics.  This quieted him admirably for over ten years.  During the latter of those years, William Camden had regularly handed out the various College perks to a young protégé by the name of Augustine Vincent.  This created a poor atmosphere among Vincent’s young co-workers.  Brookes eventually saw his opportunity.

In 1619 Brooke’s A Catalogve and Succession of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marquesses, Earles and Viscounts of this Realm of England was published by the printer William Jaggard.  As much as anything, it was a pretense to once again attack Camden for miscellaneous errors in the Britannia.  He could now, however, add Camden’s Annales rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum regnante Elizabetha (later translated into English under the title The History of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princess Elizabeth).

Again I defer to Mr. Lee: “Naturally the Camden faction discovered in it abundance of discreditable  errors. The charge was amply justified, and even Brooke had to admit that his work was far from perfect. But he declined to admit that he was personally to blame. The errors were due, he hotly declared, to the incompetence of his rascally printer, Jaggard.”[1]  Just how “the Camden faction” made their findings known I’ve yet to discover.

Brooke’s reply was to republish the work, in 1622, with another printer, together with a second corrected edition of A SECOND DISCOVERIE OF ERROURS and a screed on how poorly Jaggard had done his work.  It was at about this time that Camden awarded young Augustine Vincent the Rouge Croix.  It was the first major office of the College of Heralds.  With it, the perks the young man received would clearly grow.  By way of appreciation, Vincent undertook to give Brooke so effective a public drubbing, in print, that the feud would be ended once and for all.




Catalogue of Nobility published by Ralfe Brooke, Yorke Herald would be the only work Vincent would publish in his lifetime.  It was printed by William Jaggard.  It was so thoroughly successful not because it was the say-all and do-all of analysis among the combatants but because the Vincent’s letter to Brooke publically shamed the latter man for his behavior.  Vincent also provided Jaggard the opportunity to gain his own revenge by assisting the printer to write his own letter, for inclusion in the volume, to further shame the old reprobate.

It is here that Sidney Lee goes seriously off track, however: “Incidentally they had jointly avenged Brooke's presumptuous criticism of the great dramatist's right to the arms that the Heralds' College, at the instance of Vincent's friend Camden, had granted him long before.”  The Stratford man, William Shaksper, was not in any degree a subject of or participant in the feud.  He was not mentioned or inferred in any way even once.  His part in Brooke, Camden and Dethick’s lives began and ended as an entirely separate and vanishingly small detail of a separate matter in 1602.  Neither Vincent nor Jaggard are in the least likely to have been aware of the Shaksper matter at all.

The implication of Lee’s final conclusion is entirely unfounded: “Nothing was more natural and more appropriate than that Jaggard should present his friend and fellow-victor in the recent strife with a very early copy of the volume that was to set the fame of Shakespeare on an everlasting foundation. 'Augusta Vincenti' ('proud things to the conqueror')—the legend stamped on the cover of this copy of the First Folio—assumes a new and singularly pertinent significance when it is associated with the fact that this copy was the gift made by the printer Jaggard, in the exultation of his victory over Brooke, to Vincent, his companion-in-arms.”

Vincent had defended Jaggard and his business.  The loss of reputation the printer might have faced, in respect of Brooke’s attack, had been turned into a gain.  The event occurred at the time that Jaggard had already been hard at work assembling the First Folio of the plays of Shakespeare.  The printer gave his champion a gift for his success in the lists: a specially bound volume of the book he was then publishing (one of the finest he would ever produce).  If he’d been publishing a fine volume of Horace at the time, Vincent would have received a specially bound volume of Horace with his legend on the cover instead.


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[1] Ibid.

  • Edward de Vere's Memorial For His Son, Who Died at Birth May 1583.  July 5, 2017.  "The brief Viscount Bulbeck being the son of the renowned poet and playwright Edward de Vere, we might have hoped to have the text of the father’s own memorial poem.  As far as traditional literary history is concerned, no such poem has yet been discovered."
  • Crocodiles, Prester John and where the Earle of Oxenford wasn't.  January 10, 2018.  “From Cairo he is taken next as part of a 500,000 man military force to conquer the land of Prester John.  That wondrous mythical medieval king also has giant sluices at his control and drowns 60,000 Turks.”
  • Leonard Digges and the Shakespeare First Folio.  November 30, 2017.  "Upon receiving his baccalaureate, in 1606, Leonard briefly chose to reside in London. After that he went on an extended tour of the Continent which ended around the year that Shaksper died."
  • Enter John Lyly.  October 18, 2016.  "From time to time, Shakespeare Authorship aficionados query after the name “John Lyly”.  This happens surprisingly little given the outsized role the place-seeker, novelist and playwright played in the lives of the playwright William Shakespeare and Edward de Vere."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.



The Brooke-Camden Feud and a Presentation Copy of the First Folio.

William Camden.
Sidney Lee published an exciting discovery in the April 1899 number of the Cornhill Magazine.  Truly, it was a remarkable find.  “I have lately met with a copy of the First Folio which is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, one of the very first that came from the press of the printer William Jaggard. The copy has, as far as I can learn, hitherto escaped the notice of bibliographers, although it presents features of interest superior to any other.”[1]

The copy was a presentation copy.  It was presented to a young friend of William Camden, the great English antiquarian and author of Britannia, sive florentissimorvm regnorvm, Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae, etc.[2]  The provenance of the relationship is well worth investigating.  Especially for the misconceptions it has encouraged for well over 100 years.

Camden — the premiere English antiquarian of his time — published a fifth and much expanded edition of his Britannia in 1594.  It was published in Latin as was expected of a true intellectual.  The first English translation would be published in 1610.[3]

In respect of his great accomplishment, he was appointed Clarenceux King of Arms in 1597.  Longtime officer of the College of Heralds, Ralph Brooke, who had been appointed York Herald in 1593, was much offended by an outsider being appointed to what amount to the vice-presidency of the College south of the river Trent.  As York Herald, he felt much better qualified.  He had much more seniority and might have expected to receive the appointment himself.

Brooke had probably already noted a number of errors in the Britannia prior to Camden’s appointment.  After his appointment, the York Herald, wrote a long open letter enumerating those errors.  Camden replied in a long Latin letter conceding some of the errors.

Brooke quickly published a long pamphlet containing the letters and a much more public reply: A Discoverie of Certaine Errours Published in Print in the Much Commended 'Britannia' To which are added the Learned Mr. Camden's Answer... AND Mr. BROOKE's REPLY (1597).  Camden remained silent until the 1600 sixth edition of his Britannia.  Another Latin letter was appended to the end of that edition which replied to Brooke’s 1597 volume.  These Latin replies infuriated Brooke both because it kept the matter from being tried in the court of public opinion, where he felt he had the advantage, and likely because he was not able to write pamphlet-length works in Latin.  Camden, he felt, was unfairly managing to keep the upper hand.  He angrily responded with A SECOND DISCOVERIE OF ERROURS Published in the Much-Commended Britannia, I594. (1600), in which Camden’s Latin was translated into English, so all could understand, interleaved with Brooke’s refutations.


There was a pause at this point as Brooke filed an official complaint, in 1602, against longtime member of the College of Heralds, William Dethick.  Dethick had been the Garter King of Arms since 1586 (the equivalent of the president of all the College of Heralds throughout England, Ireland and Wales).

Brooke was on stronger ground here.  While Dethick knew the business well, he was not averse to taking or offering bribes in the various affairs of his life.  This had resulted in irregularities.

It is here that the Stratford man John Shaksper comes in. While in London, John’s son William managed to revive an old application his father had made for a Coat of Arms.  A wily presence in the capitol city did the trick and Dethick issued the now famous Shaksper family Coat of Arms.  Those arms were among the 23 cited as faulty by Brooke.[4]

In the words of Sidney Lee, whose Cornhill Magazine article gives a version of these events, “he insisted that a grave error had been committed. Shakespeare's heraldic shield, he said, did not of right belong to him because it was identical with one already borne by a noble family— that of Lord Mauley.”[5]

Brooke had not complained about the family receiving the arms in itself.  He complained that the design broke the rules of the College.  Dethick replied effectively.  While the official outcome of the dispute has not survived, it has long been believed that Dethick’s defense was successful and the design of the arms approved.

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[1] Lee, Sidney. “The Shakespeare First Folio.”  Cornhill Magazine, New Series VI. January to June 1899.  449-458 @ 454.
[2] Britannia, sive florentissimorvm regnorvm, Angliæ, Scotiæ, Hiberniæ, etc. (1580)
[3] Camden’s Britannia. (1610)  Tr. Philemon Holland.
[4] “Shakespeare's arms challenged by Ralph Brooke, as presented to Queen Elizabeth.”  Citing: Tucker, Stephen. The Assignment of Arms to Shakespeare and Arden, 1596-99 (1884), p. 13 http://www.shakespearedocumented.org/exhibition/document/shakespeares-arms-challenged-ralph-brooke-presented-queen-elizabeth. Shakespeare Documented.  “Dethick defended Shakespeare’s coat of arms by pointing out their unique features and John Shakespeare’s civic career and marriage into the Arden family. The outcome is not recorded, but the dispute appears to have been resolved in favor of Dethick.”
[5] Lee, 456.

  • Thomas Churchyard in The Merry Wives of Windsor. June 04, 2018. “The idea of this stratagem, &c. might have been adopted from part of the entertainment prepared by Thomas Churchyard for Queen Elizabeth at Norwich:…”
  • Dating Edward de Vere's Sonnet 110. May 21, 2018. “Shake-speare the poet was now Shake-speare writer for the common stage.  Those who knew he was The Bard, but only knew him as the poet, now knew that he was the person who had written the plays,…”
  • Let the sky rain potatoes! December 16, 2017. "In fact, the sweet potato had only just begun to be a delicacy within the reach of splurging poets and playwrights and members of the middle classes at the time that The Merry Wives of Windsor (the play from which Falstaff is quoted) was written.  The old soldier liked to keep abreast of the new fads."
  • Shakespeare's Apricocks.  February 21, 2017.  "While he may never have been a gardener, he does seem more than superficially knowledgeable about the gardens of his day.  One detail of such matters that he got wrong, however, is as much to the point as any."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.





Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sultan Amurath III to Queen Elizabeth I, September 1589.

Cover illustration of Turkey And Russia: Their Races, History, and War (1878).

As has been the habit of most books on Turkish history and Lewis F. Mott’s paper, reviewed here in Virtual Grub Street, under the title "Amurath III and The True Tragedy of Richard III" [link], I only quoted the standard swatch from Sultan Amurath III’s letter to Queen Elizabeth, replying to her request that Turkey attack the Spanish fleet weakened by its recent battle with the English.  We refer to the 1588 battle as “the defeat of the Spanish Armada”.

Weakened though the Spanish fleet was, England was in no position to finish it off.  The politics of the various Western European countries prevented their being drafted as active allies in the matter.  It was a brilliant and dangerous idea to draft the Turks.  They had a large fleet, some part of it able to do combat with European vessels of war.

The text of the letter used in all the works referenced above has been Richard Knolles’s English translation.  It is a more modern spelling version of that translation, taken from a 19th century history text, that appears in its entirety below[1].  A provenance of the letter will soon follow. 


Most Honourable Matron of the Christian Religion, Mirror of Chastity, adorned with the Brightness of Sovereignty and Power amongst the most chast Women of the People which serve Jesu, Mistress of great Kingdoms, reputed of greatest Majesty and Praise among the Nazarites, Elizabeth, Queen of England, to whom we wish a happy and prosperous reign. You shall understand by our high and Imperial Letters directed unto you, how that your Orator, resident in our stately and magnificent Court, hath presented a certain writing wherein he has certified us how that about four years ago you have made war upon the King of Spain, for the abating and breaking of his Forces wherewith he threatneth all other Christian Princes, and purposeth to make himself the sole Monarch both of them and all the World beside. As also how that the same King of Spain hath by force taken from Don Anthonio (lawfully created King of Portugal) his Kingdom ; and that your Intention is that his ships which go and come unto the Indies may from henceforth be embarred and stayed from that navigation; wherein are yearly brought into Spain precious Stones, Spices, Gold and Silver, esteemed worth many millions, where with the aforesaid King as with a great Treasure enriched, hath means to trouble and molest all other Christian Princes; which if he shall still proceed to do he shall daily make himself stronger and stronger, and such as shall not be easily weakened. After that your aforesaid Orator requested our Highness in the beginning of the next spring to send out our Imperial Fleet against him, being assured that the King of Spain could not be able easily to withstand it, for that he had now already received a great overthrow by your Fleet ; and being scarce able to withstand you alone, if he should be on divers parts invaded must needs be overcome, to the great benefit of all the 


Christian Princes as also of our Imperial State. Besides this, that whereas the aforesaid Don Anthonio is by force driven out and deprived of his Kingdom, that we (to the imitation of our noble Progenitors of happy Memory, whose Graves the Almighty lighten) should also give the Aid and Succour of our Magnificent State, as did they unto all such as had recourse to their high Courts and Palaces for relief. In brief, all these things, with many others which your Orator hath at large declared unto our Imperial Throne, we have well understood, and laid them up in our deep remembrance. But forasmuch as we have for many years past made Wars in Persia, with a full Resolution and Intent utterly to subdue the kingdom of that accursed Persian Heretick, and to joyn the same unto our antient Dominions ; and by the grace of God and help of our great Prophet, are now upon the point for the satisfying of our desire ; that once done due provision shall be assigned unto all such things as you have requested or desired. Wherefore, if you shall sincerely and purely continue the bond of Amity and Friendship with our high Court, you shall find no more secure or safe Harbour of good Will or Love. So at length all things shall go well, and to your Heart's desire, in your Wars with Spain under the shadow of our happy Throne. And forasmuch as the King of Spain hath by Fraud and Deceit got whatsoever he heldeth, without doubt these deceitful Deceivers shall by the Power of God in short time be despatched and taken out of the way. In the meantime we exhort you not to lose any opportunity, but to be always vigilant, and according to the conventions betwixt us favourable unto our Friends, and unto our Enemies a Foe. And give notice here to our high Court of all the new Wars which you shall understand of concerning the King of Spain, for the behoof both of yourself and us. To be brief, your Ambassador, after he had with all care and diligence despatched his ambassage, and left here in his place one Edward Bardon, his Deputy and Agent, now by our leave maketh his return towards your kingdom, being for the good and faithful service he here did, worthy to be of you esteemed, honoured, and before others promoted ; who, when he hath obtained of you all these his deserved Honours and Preferments, let him or some other principal Ambassador without delay be appointed to our Imperial Court to continue this office of Legation. This we thought good to have certified to you under our most honourable Seal, whereunto you may give undoubted credence.—From our Imperial Palace at Constantinople, the 15th of this blessed month Ramazan, 1589.



[1] Gossip, Robert.  Turkey And Russia: Their Races, History, and War.  Edinburgh: Thomas C. Jack, 1878. 107-8.



  • Amurath III and The True Tragedy of Richard III. June 11, 2018. “So then, when Professor Mott honed this information, in his 1921 paper, the shock it created was not because verities were shattered.”
  • Let the sky rain potatoes! December 16, 2017. "In fact, the sweet potato had only just begun to be a delicacy within the reach of splurging poets and playwrights and members of the middle classes at the time that The Merry Wives of Windsor (the play from which Falstaff is quoted) was written.  The old soldier liked to keep abreast of the new fads."
  • Falstaff's Sack. August 7, 2017.  'The question Mr. Hart addresses is “Just what is sack?”.  This is not the first time the question has been addressed but his is a particularly thorough attempt at an answer.
  • Shakespeare's Apricocks.  February 21, 2017.  "While he may never have been a gardener, he does seem more than superficially knowledgeable about the gardens of his day.  One detail of such matters that he got wrong, however, is as much to the point as any."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.



Monday, June 11, 2018

Amurath III and The True Tragedy of Richard III


Dating the plays of (and relating to the plays of ) Shakespeare is an endlessly interesting pursuit.  There are few that can be dated with perfect certainty.  Perhaps none.

Elizabethan theater managers had no time or inclination to establish what was the first day a play was ever performed.  That kind of record keeping — outside of government records — was a century or more in the future.  Even government records rarely concerned themselves with the titles of plays shown before the Court or city officials, much less with whether the performance was the premiere of the play.  Payments out of the Court funds were made for “a play” or “an interlude” performed on such and such a date.  As a result of these facts, attempts to date plays tend to depend heavily upon textual evidence.

In the August 1921 number of the journal Modern Philosophy, an article by Lewis F. Mott appeared entitled Foreign Politics In An Old Play” [link][1].  The old play was The True Tragedy of Richard III, a precursor to Shakespeare’s own Henry VI plays and his The Tragedy Of Richard The Third.  Mr. Mott’s paper dates the earlier True Tragedy from references in the epilogue on Queen Elizabeth in the only printed quarto of 1594:

And through her faith her country liues in peace:
And she hath put proud Antichrist to flight,
And bene the meanes that ciuill wars did cease.
Then England kneele upon thy hairy knee,
And thanke that God that still prouides for thee.
The Turke admires to heare her gouernment,
And babies in jury, sound her princely name,
All Christian Princes to that Prince hath sent,
After her rule was rumord foorth by fame.
The Turke hath sworne neuer to lift his hand,
To wrong the Princesse of this blessed land.
Twere vaine to tell the care this Queene hath had,
In helping those that were opprest by warre :
And how her Maiestie hath stil bene glad,
When she hath heard of peace proclaim'd from far.
Ieneua, France, and Flanders hath set downe,
The good she hath done, since she came to the Crowne.
For which, if ere her life be tane away,
God grant her soule may liue in heauen for aye.
For if her Graces dayes be brought to end,
Your hope is gone, on whom did peace depend.[2]

The line “And she hath put proud Antichrist to flight” Mott interprets to celebrate England’s victory over the Spanish Armada in early 1588.  Of course, “the Antichrist” was a frequent metaphor for the Catholic church which had excommunicated the Queen and called upon her citizens to overthrow her.  It certainly did not have to refer only to the Armada.  The date of the play, then, is hardly established.  We must look to further evidence in order to narrow down the reference.





However much Spain had very worldly reasons for wanting to conquer England, the Bull of Excommunication by the Vatican[3] could only have encouraged it to play the part of the conquering hero over the heretic.  Hence, the Pope being the Antichrist, Spain was its obedient servant.

The references to the Turk, however, tend to support a date after the Armada.  The first edition of Richard Haklyut’s enormously popular Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation was published in 1589.  It included numerous official letters regarding the relations between the English and the Turk.  Before Haklyut’s volume the general population (playwrights among them) knew little about the state of relations.  After it, Englishmen celebrated the greatness of their country especially as it related to the courtesies extended by the Russian and the Turk.

William Harborne had become the first credentialed ambassador to “La Porte” (Constantinople) in 1583.  By the time he was replaced by Edward Barton, in August of 1588, a good many letters of friendship had passed back and  forth between the merchants and government officials of the two countries.  Still, none that appeared in Haklyut, it could be argued, expressly stated that:

The Turke hath sworne neuer to lift his hand,
To wrong the Princesse of this blessed land.

Add to these facts, however, that the text of The True Tragedy of Richard III is stylistically very much in line with what was being written to the mid to late-1580s, and it is not difficult to understand why the case for 1588-9 was considered superior to any other dates.

So then, when Professor Mott honed this information, in his 1921 paper, the shock it created was not because verities were shattered.  The further piece of evidence he presented — a letter from the Turkish Sultan, Amuranth III, to Queen Elizabeth dated the “15th of this blessed month Ramazan, (i.e. September) 1589” (too late to have appeared in The Principle Navigations)[4] — which included the following:

Wherefore, if you shall sincerely and purely continue the bond of Amity and Friendship with our high Court, you shall find no more secure Refuge or safer Harbor of good Will or Love. [see full letter here]

Being a careful scholar, Mott quite properly issues a disclaimer: “This letter, of course, the writer of the play may or may not have seen.”  What could be said, at the very least, was that “The person who penned that final speech was either especially familiar with foreign affairs, or he had been exceedingly well coached.”



[1] Mott, Lewis F.  “Foreign Politics In An Old Play”.  Modern Philology, Volume XIX, August I92I, Number 1.  65.
[2] Anonymous.  The True Tragedy Of Richard The Third; To Which Is Appended The Latin Play Of  Richardus Tertius, by Dr. Thomas Legge. Both Anterior To Shakespeare's Drama. London: The Shakespeare Society, 1844. 71-2.
[3] Bull of “damnation and excommunication of Elizabeth Queen of England and her adherents,” 5th of  the Kalends of March, 1570.
[4] Mott’s footnote on his source reads “Richard Knolles, The Turkish History (1687) I, 708.”  This and other matters of provenance will be dealt with in the next post.


  • Thomas Churchyard in The Merry Wives of Windsor. June 04, 2018. “The idea of this stratagem, &c. might have been adopted from part of the entertainment prepared by Thomas Churchyard for Queen Elizabeth at Norwich:…”
  • Shakespeare Authorship, March the 17th and Social Media. May 13, 2018.  “This is how international financial transactions had been accomplished for centuries until the 16th century and beyond.  The traveler had to carefully make arrangements ahead or be stranded and extremely vulnerable at some point in his trip.”
  • Edward de Vere's Memorial For His Son, Who Died at Birth May 1583.  July 5, 2017.  "The brief Viscount Bulbeck being the son of the renowned poet and playwright Edward de Vere, we might have hoped to have the text of the father’s own memorial poem.  As far as traditional literary history is concerned, no such poem has yet been discovered."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.