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Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Herbert Brothers' Other First Folio Dedication.

Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke.
A copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays is traveling the country by way of celebrating what tradition says is the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare.  That tradition identifies a Stratford businessman as the author of the works of Shakespeare.

As I and others have pointed out, the Folio is dedicated to William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, and his brother Philip Herbert, the Earl of Montgomery, two men with close ties to Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.  Oxford died in 1604.  The Folio appeared in 1623.  Between the two dates, William had risen to the office of Lord Chamberlain to King James the First.  Philip had married Oxford’s daughter Susan and been created Earl.

William died in 1630 and his Earldom of Pembroke also fell to Philip.  During William’s service as Lord Chamberlain many literary works were dedicated to him.  I do not find many dedications to Philip.  The First Folio is the only dedication of which I am aware to the two brothers together while they both lived.

The introduction to my Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof  revives a letter written in 1637 by Philip recalling William’s earlier injunction, under his authority as Lord Chamberlain, against  printing any plays that had ever been the property of the players called the King’s Men.  The King’s Men had earlier been known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and, thus, had once owned the rights to most of the plays of William Shakespeare.  A collected plays of Shakespeare was being produced just after 1620 and the project coincidentally abandoned.  The First Folio soon began production under the aegis of the Lord Chamberlain without fear of prosecution.

Among the arguments Stratfordian scholars (scholars supporting the authorship of the man from Stratford) forward most boldly in their candidate’s behalf is the fact that the first recorded appearance of a number of Shakespeare plays occurred after the Earl of Oxford’s death.  Most of these plays have long been understood to show unmistakable signs of having been co-written with one or more co-authors.  The Stratfordian position is that the author had retired to his home town and greatly reduced (but not ended) his literary output.  It was a phase, they say, when he had rather layout the structure and write a few key passages of his plays and leave the rest to one or another amanuensis from among the more talented young playwrights of the time.

My own particular Oxfordian position is that Edward de Vere’s daughter Susan, the wife of Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery, and a very active player in the Court masques of her day, came into the possession of the uncompleted manuscripts of De Vere upon his death.  Those manuscripts were farmed out largely (but not entirely) to John Fletcher, the man in their judgment, best able to bring the manuscripts to successful and respectable completed plays.  Thus “new” Shakespeare plays continued to appear for a time.

All Shakespeare scholars, of all stripes, widely agree that John Fletcher’s hand is clear in many of the late plays.  Other playwrights' signature stylistic traits can be seen in some late plays, as well, but to a much smaller extent.  Fletcher’s fellow playwright, Francis Beaumont, for one, is strongly suspected of having contributed passages.

Philip Herbert did, it  turns out, receive at least one literary dedication after his brother’s death.  Actually, the dedication is to both he and his “(now glorified) Brother”.  It is a second dedication of a First Folio, that is to say, to the Herbert brothers.  The First Folio in question is of the Works of John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont, published in 1647.   I provide a transcription:

Earle of Pembroke and Mountgomery:
Baron Herbert of Cardiffe and Sherland,Lord Parr and Ross of Kendall; Lord Fitz-Hugh,
Marmyon,and Saint Quintin; Knight of the most noble Order of
the Garter; and one of His Majesties most Honourable Privie Councell:
And our Singular Good Lord.

MY LORD, THere is none among all the Names of Honour, that hath more encouraged the Legitimate... 

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