It's not the entire First Folio (FF) we have to consider, only the Preface, which contains

(1) a portrait from an engraving, with an accompanying poem by B. I.

(2) the publishers' announcements

(3) an address dedicating the FF to two Earls

(4) an address to the Readers

(5) a poem to Shakespeare by Ben Jonson

(6) a poem to Shakespeare by Hugh Holland

(7) a catalogue of the plays entered

(8) a poem to Shakespeare by L. Digges

(9) a poem to Shakespeare by I. M.

(10) a list of the principal actors in the plays.

Stratfordians claim that embedded in this preface is the unassailable proof that Shaxper was Shakespeare.

(1) To begin at the beginning, there is considerable and interesting controversy over the portrait. Since no one knows what Shakespeare looked like, I suggest we pass this by as irrelevant. But the accompanying poem by B. I. is something we need to consider as evidence. Here it is in full (I'm using the Web electronic version courtesy of the University of Virginia):

1: To the Reader.
2: This Figure, that thou here seest put,
3: It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
4: Wherein the Grauer had a strife
5: with Nature, to out-doo the life:
6: O, could he but haue drawne his wit
7: As well in brasse, as he hath hit
8: His face; the Print would then surpasse
9: All, that was euer writ in brasse.
10: But, since he cannot, Reader, looke
11: Not on his Picture, but his Booke.
12: B.I.

It's apparently accepted without question that this poem is by Ben Jonson. If it is his poem, then he perhaps used initials here to add variety to the Preface, as his long laudatory poem to Shakespeare has his full name at the end. I suggest the lines we need to consider are 2 ,3, 10 and 11.

My comments:

Jonson's trade was as a wordsmith. If he wrote the poem, he has not said outright that this is a representation of the writer we know as Shakespeare. He says it was cut for him. We're told elsewhere in the preface that the dramatist is dead, which means the portrait was actually 'cut' to inform the readers or purchasers of the book, so the line is inaccurate. Shaxper was a ruthless pursuer of debtors; if de Vere was Shakespeare, the 'madcap earl' was no shrinking violet either. Many of Shakespeare's plays were either bawdy or violent or both, The attribute 'gentle' in its modern sense fits none of these men. Here the word 'gentle' presumably means gentleman. But Shaxper was less than a gentleman, and de Vere was more than a gentleman, being an Earl, so the epithet 'gentle' is incongruous here as well.

Next B. I. says: if the engraver could have drawn his wit as well as he has 'hit' his face it would surpass 'all that was ever writ in brass', but since he could not, 'look not on his picture but his book.' Passing over the ambiguous use of 'hit' in this context, there's the anomalous situation of having a picture but being told not to look at it. This is not exactly a felicitous beginning.


18: Published according to the True Originall Copies.
20: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed. Blount. 1623.

The book or volume has 454 leaves, the first 9 being the preliminary material which interests us here; then the comedies, 152 leaves; the histories, 132; Troylus and Cressida, 15; the tragedies 146; totalling 454. There's a colophon (a tailpiece in an old book detailing the printer etc.) at 454a, which says:

Printed at the charges of W. Iaggard, Ed. Blount, L. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley, 1623.

Apparently there are numerous mis-signed leaves and pagination errors:

Leaves missigned in print ed. (from Greg): V1 as vv; a3 as Aa3; m3 as l3; bb2 as Bb2; Gg2-3 as gg2-3; nn1-2 as Nn1-2; oo1 as Oo; tt2 as tt3; xx1 as x; yy2-3 as y2-3. Leaf oo2 unsigned.

Errors in pagination (from Greg): 1-303 [misnumbering 50 as 58, 59 as 51, 86 as 88, 153 as 151, 161 as 163, 164-165 as 162-163, 189 as 187, 249-250 as 251-252, 265 as 273]; 1-232 [omitting 47-48, misnumbering 89-90 as 91-92, leaving 2 p. unnumbered after 100 and repeating 69-100, misnumbering 165-166 as 167-168, 216 as 218]; 1-399 [misnumbering 77-80 as 79-82, having only 2 unnumbered pp. (2nd blank) in place of 99-108, omitting 157-256, misnumbering 278 as 259, 282 as 280, 308 as 38, 379 as 289, 399 as 993].

William Jaggard became blind in about 1612 and the business apparently and understandably declined seriously as a result. There were further complications through bad debts and lawsuits during the period 1617 to 1621. The FF was a substantial order for this apparently failing business. Printing seems to have begun in 1621. William Jaggard died in 1623, and his son Isaac took over the business. This explains the different Jaggard names in the Preface and the colophon. It's said the FF production was costly and more than the business could have afforded. The selling price was 22/- (shillings) per copy. Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the famous lexicographer, thought the print run was 500 copies. It's been suggested that production costs would have exceeded the revenue of £550, even if all the copies were sold. How the FF may have been paid for will be discussed when we come to consider Ben Jonson's part in all this. For now, it remains to say although a researcher has commented that Ed. Blount formerly printed some quartos, we were not told which, how many, or when. Further, no one seems to tell us whether Blount was or became a partner in the Jaggard firm, or the two printers combined forces as a joint venture for the FF. Nor has any information been found as to the roles or responsibilities of Smithweeke and Aspley. Perhaps no one knows (but see Note 1).

Editors of Shakespeare's texts over the intervening centuries to the present have grappled with the numerous errors, variations of the FF text from the quartos, and additions and deletions between these different editions. One example from Hamlet was discussed in Chapter 25.

Because of the evident confusion over FF referencing, numbering, and textual errors and differences from other previous Shakespeare texts, not seen by scholars as improvements, it appears the printing was not properly edited or reviewed, suggesting a hasty and insufficiently financed undertaking. It may have been beyond the capacity of the printers to create a proper production with the mass of material they received. The result is that the printers' claim they 'published according to the true original copies' is very far from the truth.


22: AND
26: Earle of Pembroke, &c. Lord Chamberlaine to the
27: Kings most Excellent Maiesty.
28: AND
30: Earle of Montgomery, &c. Gentleman of his Maiesties
31: Bed-Chamber. Both Knights of the most Noble Order
32: of the Garter, and our singular good
33: LORDS.
34: Right Honourable,
35: Whilst we studie to be thankful in our particular, for
36: the many fauors we haue receiued from your L.L
37: we are falne vpon the ill fortune, to mingle
38: two the most diuerse things that that can bee, feare,
39: and rashnesse; rashnesse in the enterprize, and
40: feare of the successe. For, when we valew the places your H.H.
41: sustaine, we cannot but know their dignity greater, then to descend to
42: the reading of these trifles: and, while we name them trifles, we haue
43: depriu'd our selues of the defence of our Dedication. But since your
44: L.L. haue beene pleas'd to thinke these trifles some-thing, heereto-fore;
45: and haue prosequuted both them, and their Authour liuing,
46: with so much fauour: we hope, that (they out-liuing him, and he not
47: hauing the fate, common with some, to be exequutor to his owne wri-tings)
48: you will vse the like indulgence toward them, you haue done
49: vnto their parent. There is a great difference, whether any Booke
50: choose his Patrones, or finde them: This hath done both. For,
51: so much were your L.L. likings of the seuerall parts, when
52: they were acted, as before they were published, the Volume ask'd to
53: be yours. We haue but collected them, and done an office to the
54: dead, to procure his Orphanes, Guardians; without ambition ei-ther
55: of selfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy
56: a Friend, & Fellow aliue, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by hum-ble
57: offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as
58: we haue iustly obserued, no man to come neere your L.L. but with
59: a kind of religious addresse; it hath bin the height of our care, who
60: are the Presenters, to make the present worthy of your H.H. by the
61: perfection. But, there we must also craue our abilities to be considerd,
62: my Lords. We cannot go beyond our owne powers. Country hands
63: reach foorth milke, creame, fruites, or what they haue: and many
64: Nations (we haue heard) that had not gummes & incense, obtai-ned
65: their requests with a leauened Cake. It was no fault to approch
66: their Gods, by what meanes they could: And the most, though
67: meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated
68: to Temples. In that name therefore, we most humbly consecrate to
69: your H.H. these remaines of your seruant Shakespeare; that
70: what delight is in them, may be euer your L.L. the reputation
71: his, & the faults ours, if any be committed, by a payre so carefull to
72: shew their gratitude both to the liuing, and the dead, as is
73: Your Lordshippes most bounden,


My Comments:

Mary Sidney Herbert (1561- 1621), Countess of Pembroke, translator and royal entertainment contributor, was the sister of Sir Philip Sidney, mother of Philip Herbert (1584-1650) and William Herbert (1580-1630). William became 3rd Earl of Pembroke, and Philip became Earl of Montgomery, later 4th Earl of Pembroke. William became Lord Chamberlain in 1615. It seems he actively lobbied for this position, and it's said he later declined several times to give it up for higher office. It made him in charge of Court entertainments, the public theatres and the publication of plays. Philip, the younger brother, was Lord Chamberlain from 1626 to 1641. He performed in masques at Court in 1606, 1608, 1610, 1613, 1613, 1614, 1617, 1618, 1618. The Herberts apparently arranged for a cousin to become Master of the Revels; under the Lord Chamberlain the senior working official responsible for publication of plays, acting companies and theatres. James 1st died in March, 1625, succeeded by his son Charles 1st as king.

John Heminge and Henry Condell, whose names appear as the authors at the end of the Dedication piece, were actors. Their wills and estimated net worth at time of death were discussed in chapter 5. Heminge, if the same actor, was spelt differently as Hemmings in the list of actors in the FF Preface, Heminge was named with Shaxper in the 1613 deed and mortgage related to the Blackfriars Gate-House. Chambers tells us that Heminge stuttered by 1613 and dropped out of acting by 1620. He became a grocer and died a widower in 1630.

Condell was said to have been the son of a fish-monger who married a wealthy heiress when he was 20. Condell named his 'loving friends' John Heminges, gentleman; Cuthbert Burbage, gentleman; his son-in-law; and Peter Saunderson, grocer; as overseers of his will. He became a 'publican' later in life, and died in 1627. Burbage, Heminge, Condell, Shakespeare and others were named in the answer of Heminge and Condell in the case of Witter v. Heminge and Condell in the Court of Requests in 1619 as having had interests many years earlier in the Globe and Blackfriars theatres.

When we reviewed Shaxper's will (chapter 5) we found it to be more business-like and comprehensive than the other actors at the Globe. It had an intercalation (insert) in it, said to be one of several, this one stating:

and to my fellowes John Hemynges, Richard Burbage and Henry Cundell xxvj.s viij.d to buy them ringes.

This was 26/8 or two marks apiece, or £1-6-8.

My concern with this entry is as to whether it was initialled by the testator. If not, it could have been inserted at any time, before or after his death, and I would not regard it as evidence. Richard Bentley was Editor-in-Chief of the American Bar Association Journal from 1961 until his death in 1970. Here's what he says about this problem in Shaxper's will:

the bequests to Heminge, Burbage and Condell in Shaksper's will were not in the body of the will as it was originally written. They are in an interlineation, added some time later, no one knows when, not even whether it was before or after the death of the testator.

Bentley does not say whether the insert is initialled by the testator. If he saw the actual will or a photocopy there would be no problem if it were initialled, so either he did not see the original evidence, or it was not initialled if he saw it (But see NOTE 2 at the end of this chapter). However, there are three or four other pieces of evidence that Shaxper was in business association with actors, or was himself an actor, so we do not need to rely on this evidence as proof.

Although the prose Dedication to the two Earls is quite lengthy, I suggest we need consider only a few statements in it: Lines 35-36; 43-46; 46-47; 48-49; 51-57.

35: Whilst we studie to be thankful in our particular, for
36: the many fauors we haue receiued from your L.L ...

There appears to be no known, or at least referred to, tangible evidence that the two Earls bestowed any favours upon these two retired actors. Perhaps it's just part of a standard format for addressing a noble in a dedication.

......But since your
44: L.L. haue beene pleas'd to thinke these trifles some-thing, heereto-fore;
45: and haue prosequuted both them, and their Authour liuing,
46: with so much fauour:

The statement that the 36 plays are 'trifles' is merely rhetorical, because they include some of the greatest literature in the English language. Further, there appears to be no evidence that the two Earls ever 'prosecuted their author living' with any favour, let alone 'so much favour.' The only dedications of his work ever known to have been made by Shakespeare were to the Earl of Southampton for the Venus and Lucrece poems. Nor is there apparently any evidence that Shakespeare was ever paid anything by anyone for any of his work. Presumably these statements are mere rhetoric. To the best of my belief and knowledge the statements are completely false.

... ...he not
47: hauing the fate, common with some, to be exequutor to his owne wri-tings

If this is meant to be about Shaxper, it is untrue. The last dated plays, according to contemporary Shakespearean scholarship, are the Winter's Tale and The Tempest, dated 1610-11, no later than 1612. This excludes Henry 8th, reputedly completed by Fletcher. As Shaxper is said to have retired to Stratford in about 1612, he had four years to be 'executor to his own writings.' If Heminge and Condell are writing about de Vere, the statement is true.

48: you will vse the like indulgence toward them, you haue done
49: vnto their parent.

These two lines merely carry on the thought from lines 43-46 just quoted. Again, there appears to be no tangible evidence for this statement.

51: so much were your L.L. likings of the seuerall parts, when
52: they were acted, as before they were published, the Volume ask'd to
53: be yours. We haue but collected them, and done an office to the
54: dead, to procure his Orphanes, Guardians; without ambition ei-ther
55: of selfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy
56: a Friend, & Fellow aliue, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by hum-ble
57: offer of his playes, to your most noble patronage

Lines 51 and 52 are probably true. As to the statement that 'we have but collected them' this may well be true. But in what capacity? About half of the plays were printed for the first time in the FF. Where were they previously, in manuscript form? The Globe theatre, a supposed owner of many of the plays, burned to the ground in 1613, so presumably the Globe copies were then lost. Even if they were not, there appears to be little or no record of the performance of some of these plays. Shaxper, the alleged Shakespeare, would have had common law copyright to them, but this tangible property is not listed in his will and it was too valuable to be merely included with sundry household effects. Who then had all these plays? This appears to be a complete mystery if Shaxper is the alleged Shakespeare.

Heminge and Condell may very well have had to act without significant self-profit.

And now we come to the first piece of 'incontrovertible proof' that Shaxper was Shakespeare. In the same sentence the plays are linked with keeping the memory of 'so worthy a Friend and Fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare, by humble offer of his plays.'

Fortunately, we've already found in this investigation that Shaxper could not have been, and was not, the poet/dramatist Shakespeare, so this phrase by Heminge and Condell does not cause any consternation. Instead, we need to ask, why did they say this? What was the purpose? This leads us on to an interesting conclusion by some highly regarded Shakespearean scholars.

Malone, Steevens, and Chambers apparently thought that Ben Jonson either wrote or at least was ghost-writer in part for the FF Dedication. One of the reasons is that the way the Dedication speaks of the elevated status of the two Earls in extreme contrast to the 'Presenters' humble place in society is an apparent paraphrase of Pliny's dedication of his Natural History to the Emperor Vespasian. The Roman author Pliny (the Elder) A.D. c. 23-79 perished in an eruption of Vesuvius.

It's thought that the two elderly actors would not have had the classical learning to reflect Pliny in this way, but Ben Jonson, who appears to have written a substantial part of the FF Preface, took pleasure in parading his knowledge of the classics and this may give us a clue here as to who was behind the Dedication. It may be then, that Heminge and Condell asked Jonson for help as they had no experience in how to write such a piece for an important volume. They may have discussed what to say, Jonson may have written it. and they signed it. This is pure conjecture, but seems a plausible explanation for the likeness to Pliny.

Heminge appears to have been the manager or paymaster of first, the Lord Chamberlain's men, and later His Majesty's Players or The King's men, according to official government records of payments for Court performances:

October 1599 payment collected by John Heminge £30, and payments to Heminge for the players in February 1600, March 1600, and on December 3, 1603 £30 for the performance of the first play given before James 1st in England, which happened to be in the mansion of the Earl of Pembroke at his Wilton estate. In 1618 John Heminge collected £20 for Twelfth Night and The Winter's Tale.

The reason for listing all this is to show that I believe John Heminge was a responsible individual who would not sign a document that he knew to be false. This also means that as he was still living when the FF was published the FF would be unlikely to publish something with his name appended to it without his knowledge and consent. It follows that Heminge must have actually believed Shaxper was Shakespeare, and so presumably did Condell.

How did this happen? If Shaxper, then calling himself William Shakespeare, walked into the Globe theatre from time to time with a manuscript of a play tucked under his arm, and presented it to the Burbages as a William Shakespeare play, why would they or the other actors and/or sharers question it, unlikely as it may have seemed to them? This means that there must have been collusion between the poet/dramatist who wished to remain hidden, and Shaxper who wanted fame and particularly fortune. If Jonson helped Heminge and Condell write their FF Dedication, and they signed it, Jonson would not have exactly told a lie, although I suggest we can be sure Jonson knew the truth.


76: To the great Variety of Readers.
77: From the most able, to him that can but spell: There
78: you are number'd. We had rather you were weighd.
79: Especially, when the fate of all Bookes depends vp-on
80: your capacities: and not of your heads alone,
81: but of your purses. Well! It is now publique, & you
82: wil stand for your priuiledges wee know: to read,
83: and censure. Do so, but buy it first. That doth best
84: commend a Booke, the Stationer saies. Then, how odde soeuer your
85: braines be, or your wisedomes, make your licence the same, and spare
86: not. Iudge your sixe-pen'orth, your shillings worth, your fiue shil-lings
87: worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the iust rates, and wel-come.
88: But, what euer you do, Buy. Censure will not driue a Trade,
89: or make the Iacke go. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and sit
90: on the Stage at Black-Friers, or the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dailie,
91: know, these Playes haue had their triall alreadie, and stood out all Ap-peales;
92: and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court,
93: then any purchas'd Letters of commendation.
94: It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to haue bene wished, that
95: the Author himselfe had liu'd to haue set forth, and ouerseen his owne
96: writings; But since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death de-parted
97: of their care, and paine, to haue collected & publish'd them; and so to
99: haue publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diuerse
100: stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds
101: are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all
103: the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceiued the[m]. Who, as he was
104: a happie imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind
105: and hand went together: And what he thought, he vttered with that
106: easinesse, that wee haue scarse receiued from him a blot in his papers.
107: But it is not our prouince, who onely gather his works, and giue them
108: you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to
109: your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold
110: you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him,
111: therefore; and againe, and againe: And if then you doe not like him,
112: surely you are in some manifest danger, not to vnderstand him. And so
113: we leaue you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your
114: guides: if you neede them not, you can leade your selues, and others.
115: And such Readers we wish him.

116: Iohn Heminge.
117: Henrie Condell.

The lines 96-103 are of interest to us, particularly: As where (before) you were abused with diverse stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors, that exposed them: even those, are now offered to your view cured, and perfect in their limbs, and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived the[m].

The evidence of the FF itself show us that this statement as to the condition in which the work is offered in the FF, is false, untrue, and incorrect, as noted above.

The lines 105-6, that they scarcely received from the author a blot on his papers is certainly false for Shaxper, because the actual substantive evidence of his own penmanship is that he dropped blots frequently and could scarcely even write his own name. This means that they are talking here about the true author, the elusive nobleman. If it was de Vere, with finishing touches from Will Stanley, Earl of Derby, we have seen from examples of both their penmanships, that it would be true.


118: To the memory of my beloued, 119: The AVTHOR
121: AND
122: what he hath left vs.
123: To draw no enuy (Shakespeare) on thy name,
124: Am I thus ample to thy Booke, and Fame:
125: While I confesse thy writings to be such,
126: As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too much.
127: 'Tis true, and all mens suffrage. But these wayes
128: Were not the paths I meant vnto thy praise:
129: For seeliest Ignorance on these may light,
130: Which, when it sounds at best, but eccho's right;
131: Or blinde Affection, which doth ne're aduance
132: The truth, but gropes, and vrgeth all by chance;
133: Or crafty Malice, might pretend this praise,
134: And thinke to ruine, where it seem'd to raise.
135: These are, as some infamous Baud, or Whore,
136: Should praise a Matron. What could hurt her more?
137: But thou art proofe against them, and indeed
138: Aboue the ill fortune of them, or the need.
139: I, therefore will begin. Soule of the Age!
140: The applause! delight! the wonder of our Stage!
141: My Shakespeare, rise; I will not lodge thee by
142: Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lye
143: A little further, to make thee a roome:
144: Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe,
145: And art aliue still, while thy Booke doth liue,
146: And we haue wits to read, and praise to giue.
147: That I not mixe thee so, my braine excuses;
148: I meane with great, but disproportion'd Muses:
149: For, if I thought my iudgement were of yeeres,
150: I should commit thee surely with thy peeres,
151: And tell, how farre thou didst our Lily out-shine,
152: Or sporting Kid, or Marlowes mighty line.
153: And though thou hadst small
Latine, and lesse Greeke,
154: From thence to honour thee, I would not seeke
155: For names; but call forth thund'ring Aeschilus,
156: Euripides, and Sophocles to vs,
157: Paccuuius, Accius, him of Cordoua dead,
158: To life againe, to heare thy Buskin tread,
159: And shake a Stage: Or, when thy Sockes were on,
160: Leaue thee alone, for the comparison
161: Of all, that insolent Greece, or haughtie Rome
162: sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
163: Triumph, my Britaine, thou hast one to showe,
164: To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.
165: He was not of an age, but for all time!
166: And all the Muses still were in their prime,
167: When like Apollo he came forth to warme
168: Our eares, or like a Mercury to charme!
169: Nature herselfe was proud of his designes,
170: And ioy'd to weare the dressing of his lines!
171: Which were so richly spun, and wouen so fit,
172: As, since, she will vouchsafe no other Wit.
173: The merry Greeke, tart Aristophanes,
174: Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
175: But antiquated, and deserted lye
176: As they were not of Natures family.
177: Yet must I not giue Nature all: Thy Art,
178: My gentle Shakespeare, must enioy a part.
179: For though the Poets matter, Nature be,
180: His Art doth giue the fashion. And, that he,
181: Who casts to write a liuing line, must sweat,
182: (such as thine are) and strike the second heat
183: Vpon the Muses anuile: turne the same,
184: (And himselfe with it) that he thinkes to frame;
185: Or for the lawrell, he may gaine a scorne,
186: For a good Poet's made, as well as borne.
187: And such wert thou. Looke how the fathers face
188: Liues in his issue, euen so, the race
189: Of Shakespeares minde, and manners brightly shines
190: In his well torned, and true-filed lines:
191: In each of which, he seemes to shake a Lance,
192: As brandish't at the eyes of Ignorance.
193: Sweet Swan of Auon! what a sight it were
194: To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
195: And make those flights vpon the bankes of Thames,
196: That so did take Eliza, and our Iames!
197: But stay, I see thee in the Hemisphere
198: Aduanc'd, and made a Constellation there!
199: Shine forth, thou Starre of Poets, and with rage,
200: Or influence, chide, or cheere the drooping Stage;
201: Which, since thy flight fro[m] hence, hath mourn'd like night,
202: And despaires day, but for thy Volumes light.

This is the centerpiece of the Preface: Ben Jonson's lengthy panegyric in rhyming couplets with its extravagant praise of Mr. William Shakespeare. He begins

To the memory of my beloved, the author Mr. William Shakespeare.

This dissembling opening is typical Jonson. Shakespeare the author may be his beloved now that he's dead and out of the way, but when he was living there was a 'war of the theatres' between them which ended only when de Vere died in 1604.

It's also interesting that Jonson accurately defines his subject: 'the Author Mr. William Shakespeare.' Why did he add the word Author? It may well be that this was to identify him and differentiate him from the Actor Mr. William Shakespeare. Jonson is not, then, writing about the Actor, Shaxper, but the Author, Shakespeare. Fortunately, there seems to be very little of this long poem which need concern us.

133: Or crafty Malice, might pretend this praise,
134: And thinke to ruine, where it seem'd to raise.

This tells us nothing about Shakespeare but it does illuminate the darker side of Jonson. It's surprising to find such negative thoughts in a supposed eulogy.

144: Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe,

There has been considerable controversy over these few words. They could apply to Shaxper or de Vere. Shaxper did have a slab on the floor over his remains. And a bust added at some unspecified time. De Vere died intestate (no will) and we only have the will of his widow, the Countess, as evidence that he was buried at Hackney.

153: And though thou hadst small Latine, and lesse Greeke,
154: From thence to honour thee, I would not seeke
155: For names; but call forth thund'ring Aeschilus,
156: Euripides, and Sophocles..

There has been much controversy over line 153. Oxfordians think the words are conditional (and even if) because their candidate, de Vere, was proficient in Latin, and probably Greek also. Stratfordians take the words as they read, and not as conditional, because their candidate, Shaxper, gives no evidence in his life of any schooling.

It seems to me that 'from thence to honour thee' is a dependent clause qualifying line 153. The 'thou' in line 153 appears to refer back to his stated subject

139: Soul of the Age...

141: My Shakespeare...

The important question is: what does the 'thence' refer to; it's the source of the 'thence' that has small Latin and less Greek, not Shakespeare himself. That's because there is a comma in the middle of line 154 and Jonson's thought after that moves to calling on the classical authors.

'Thence' can be an adverb or a noun. Here used as 'from thence' indicates it's an adverb. Adverbs qualify or modify another word or word-group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc., not a person. Now we have to find the word or word-group that Jonson used. We can expect it to be between lines 139 and 154. That is, between the enunciation of his subject and the 'thence.' Let's consider each word or word-group in turn that Jonson uses in the lines. One of them should relate to his 'from thence.'

Lines 141 - 146 are all about persons, and so can be excluded, with one exception: 'thy Book' (line 145). But line 146 ends with the end of the sentence - a 'period' or 'full stop.' We would expect Jonson to be including the source of his 'from thence' in the same sentence. The following sentence is the one that includes 'from thence.' There are three possible sources:

148: 'great, but disproportion'd Muses'

149: 'years'

150: 'peers'.

Next I suggest we need to consider the sense of Jonson's sentence to determine which word or word-group the 'from thence' refers to. Common sense tells us that if we apply the phrase 'small Latin and less Greek' from 'great Muses' it doesn't fit; nor does it fit having small Latin and less Greek from 'years.' But it does fit to say Shakespeare had small Latin and less Greek from his 'peers' to honour him.

Our final test is to see if it fits the context of Jonson's train of thought in the poem. Here's my abstract:

Jonson begins this section by saying he won't place Shakespeare with the other dead poets buried in the Abbey because Shakespeare is in a different category, a monument by himself, and still lives while his writings live. Jonson won't compare Shakespeare with these other great but lesser lights because if Jonson did that, in his judgement Shakespeare would belong only in the years of his contemporaries or peers, and then he would say how much Shakespeare outshone such as Lyly, Kyd and Marlowe. Although Shakespeare had small Latin and less Greek from among his peers to honour him, Jonson wouldn't seek for names among them to do that, but he'd call forth to life again Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles and others to hear Shakespeare's tragedy and comedy, leaving him alone for comparison with what insolent Greece and haughty Rome produced, or what has come since from their ashes. Jonson's Britain will triumph with Shakespeare to whom all Europe owes homage as not of an age but for all time.

Looking back from our time to those days we know this to be true. Jonson was very perspicacious to discern it then.

It seems to me that 'peers' is closest (line 150) of the alternatives we found, and also makes the most sense and carries Jonson's thought forward more accurately.

The upshot of all this is that line 153 does not make a comment on Shakespeare's linguistic ability at all, but on the failure of Shakespeare's contemporaries to honour him as befitted an author not of an age but of all time. (See also Note 3 to this chapter).

158: To life againe, to heare thy Buskin tread,
159: And shake a Stage: Or, when thy Sockes were on,

A buskin was literally a thick soled boot which gave additional height to an Athenian tragic actor in ancient Greece. There is actually evidence that de Vere was described this way: 'he is but a little fellow... who hath one of the best wits in England.' (Thomas Nashe). So Jonson's description fits de Vere well. We don't know the height of Shaxper the actor. The 'shake a stage' reference is probably a reference to Gabriel Harvey's encomium to de Vere, and the Bolebec crest (discussed in chapters 7 and 23).
A sock was in ancient times a comic actor's light shoe, so Jonson's 'buskin' and 'sock' referred to both tragedy and comedy.

........ the race
189: Of Shakespeares minde, and manners brightly shines
190: In his well torned, and true-filed lines:
191: In each of which, he seemes to shake a Lance,
192: As brandish't at the eyes of Ignorance.

This is a very apt description of what we know of de Vere, including the specific reference to 'shake a lance' brandished in the eyes of the ignorant who don't know who he is. None of this applies to anything we know about Shaxper.

193: Sweet Swan of Auon! what a sight it were
194: To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
195: And make those flights vpon the bankes of Thames,
196: That so did take Eliza, and our Iames!

This is more clever wordmanship from Jonson, master in the art. The south bank of the Thames river at London was where there were theatres, including the Globe.

By mentioning both Elizabeth and James he acknowledges that the Author he is praising was primarily a Court poet and dramatist, just as later in his career Jonson was primarily a Court author of masques.

Now we have come to our last quotation, the 'Sweet swan of Avon' which Stratfordians claim indisputably identifies Shaxper as Shakespeare. This is because he was born and bred at Stratford on (or upon) Avon in the county of Warwickshire. Oxfordians counter that de Vere had an estate at Bilton, on the Avon, upstream about 20 miles from Stratford, and therefore it could apply equally to him. A Stratfordian professor tells us that de Vere sold this estate early in his life and there is no evidence he ever went there. That won't do. Jonson, the social know-all would certainly have known all about the Bilton estate. He made it his business to know such things. I suggest we can assume Jonson fully intended a studied ambiguity here. The previous reference we quoted regarding Ignorance tells us that for those who read the Preface knowing who the Author was, would only find their knowledge confirmed, but for those who were ignorant of this would only have their own ignorance confirmed. This is a very subtle way to put a Preface together, and Jonson must be given great credit for his performance.

I may be able to add something regarding the 'Sweet swan' line in the poem which I have not found referred to elsewhere. That's because I lived on a retired river launch for about 4 years in very close proximity to a family of swans on the upper reaches of the Thames (called the Isis) at Oxford. It may not be generally known among Shakespearean scholars, particularly those in the US, that the swan was (and is) a Royal bird. This came about in the Middle Ages to prevent their being killed and eaten by the populace. The Worshipful Company of Vintners received a charter in 1364 which granted it a monopoly of trade with Gascony. The Vintners share with the Dyers and the Crown the ownership of all swans on the Thames, their cygnets being marked with two nicks on the beak on the annual Swan Upping Voyage. The Dyers Guild was mentioned in 1188 and received its first charter in 1471.

Jonson would have known that the swan was a royal bird, and therefore 'sweet swan of Avon' was an oblique reference to de Vere, a royal protégé with £1000 a year from the Crown to show for it. This epithet used by Jonson would be inappropriate for Shaxper. If a clear reference to Shaxper was intended, he could have used some reference to Stratford. But you would have to fathom this out from the way Jonson has worded it, another example of his clever wordmastership.

Reviewing these 7 comments on Jonson's poem he has I suggest, cleverly as he was quite capable of doing, used his particular gift with words and phrases to remind the Incomparable Pair of Brethren, their spouses relatives and friends among the nobility that de Vere was Shakespeare, but so wording it that, as he himself says, the ignorant in effect remain ignorant and think it's Shaxper. It's a masterly piece of work of its kind, I suggest, by a poet who specialized in this type of presentation.


The next tribute is a form of sonnet by Hugh Holland:

204: Vpon the Lines and Life of the Famous
205: Scenicke Poet, Master WILLIAM
207: Those hands, which you so clapt, go now, and wring
208: You Britaines braue; for done are Shakespeares dayes;
209: His dayes are done, that made the dainty Playes,
210: Which made the Globe of heau'n and earth to ring.
211: Dry'de is that veine, dry'd is the Thespian Spring,
212: Turn'd all to teares, and Phoebus clouds his rayes:
213: That corp's, that coffin now besticke those bayes,
214: Which crown'd him Poet first, then Poets King.
215: If Tragedies might any Prologue haue,
216: All those he made, would scarse make one to this:
217: Where Fame, now that he gone is to the graue
218: (Deaths publique tyring-house) the Nuncius is.
219: For though his line of life went soone about,
220: The life yet of his lines shall neuer out.

This is the first of three short poems, the other two by Leonard Digges and I.M., apparently said by Chambers to be James Mabbe, in which case it's been commented that all three were intimately linked with Ben Jonson either as school fellows or associates in literary work. The work of none of them found its way into the Oxford books of Verse for the 16th or 17th centuries. Hugh Holland is best known for his contribution to the FF and his gratulatory verses for the play Sejanus His Fall, written by Jonson. Holland is said to have been a traveller, and a poet, of Cambridge.

I don't understand why Holland called Shakespeare a scenic poet, or why he said

209: His dayes are done, that made the dainty Playes,

Dainty doesn't seem a particularly appropriate adjective to apply to Shakespeare's plays. The word might better suit Sir John Suckling (1609-1642) who wrote

Her feet beneath her petticoat

Like little mice stole in and out

Holland's poem is about the death of Shakespeare almost as though it had just happened. Words used in the poem are:

Teares, clouds, corpse, coffin, tragedies, grave, deaths, (Nuncius = messenger),

and Holland ends

219: For though his line of life went soone about,
220: The life yet of his lines shall neuer out.

I don't wish to be unkind to Holland, but this seems to me more like an elegy than an encomium.


Next follows a catalogue of the plays in the volume

223: of the seuerall Comedies, Histories, and Tra-gedies
224: contained in this Volume.
226: The Tempest. Folio 1.
227: The two Gentlemen of Verona. 20
228: The Merry Wiues of Windsor. 38
229: Measure for Measure. 61
230: The Comedy of Errours. 85
231: Much adoo about Nothing. 101
232: Loues Labour lost. 122
233: Midsommer Nights Dreame. 145
234: The Merchant of Venice. 163
235: As you Like it. 185
236: The Taming of the Shrew. 208
237: All is well, that Ends well. 230
238: Twelfe-Night, or what you will. 255
239: The Winters Tale. 304
241: The Life and Death of King Iohn. Fol. 1.
242: The Life & death of Richard the second. 23
243: The First part of King Henry the fourth. 46
244: The Second part of K[ing]. Henry the fourth. 74
245: The Life of King Henry the Fift. 69
246: The First part of King Henry the Sixt. 96
247: The Second part of King Hen[ry]. the Sixt. 120
248: The Third part of King Henry the Sixt. 147
249: The Life & Death of Richard the Third. 173
250: The Life of King Henry the Eight. 205
0 252: The Tragedy of Coriolanus. Fol. 1.
253: Titus Andronicus. 31
254: Romeo and Iuliet. 53
255: Timon of Athens. 80
256: The Life and death of Iulius Caesar. 109
257: The Tragedy of Macbeth. 131
258: The Tragedy of Hamlet. 152
259: King Lear. 283
260: Othello, the Moore of Venice. 310
261: Anthony and Cleopater. 346
262: Cymbeline King of Britaine. 369

If the plays are intended to be in chronological order of composition it's interesting to see the first comedy is The Tempest and the last The Winter's Tale, which is certainly not in line with conventional Shakespearean thinking today. The Catalogue lists 14 comedies, 10 histories, and 11 tragedies, totalling 35. Henry 8th is not now thought to be by Shakespeare, or if so, completed by another (Fletcher), Troilus and Cressida is included in the FF but missed in the Catalogue, and Pericles, now thought to be by Shakespeare is excluded. This gives a revised total of 36 plays considered to be by Shakespeare.


The Catalogue is followed by yet another eulogy to Shakespeare:

264: of the deceased Authour Maister
266: Shake-speare, at length thy pious fellowes giue
267: The world thy Workes: thy Workes, by which, out-liue
268: Thy Tombe, thy name must; when that stone is rent,
269: And Time dissolues thy Stratford Moniment,
270: Here we aliue shall view thee still. This Booke,
271: When Brasse and Marble fade, shall make thee looke
272: Fresh to all Ages: when Posteritie
273: Shall loath what's new, thinke all is prodegie
274: That is not Shake-speares; eu'ry Line, each Verse
275: Here shall reuiue, redeeme thee from thy Herse.
276: Nor Fire, nor cankring Age, as Naso said,
277: Of his, thy wit-fraught Booke shall once inuade.
278: Nor shall I e're beleeue, or thinke thee dead
279: (Though mist) vntill our bankrout Stage be sped
280: (Impossible) with some new straine t' out-do
281: Passions of Iuliet, and her Romeo;
282: Or till I heare a Scene more nobly take,
283: Then when thy half-Sword parlying Romans spake.
284: Till these, till any of thy Volumes rest
285: Shall with more fire, more feeling be exprest,
286: Be sure, our Shake-speare, thou canst neuer dye
287: But crown'd with Lawrell, liue eternally.
288: L. Digges.

Leonard Digges' part in the Shakespeare identity debate is very important to the Stratfordians. He was a man who was not only a neighbour of Shaxper's both in Stratford-on-Avon and London, the step-son (from 1603) of Thomas Russell, but Thomas Russell was appointed one of the two overseers of Shaxper's will. I see no point in arguing that this does not mean Digges knew Shaxper, as some Oxfordians have claimed. Let's assume he did know him personally. We also know, as mentioned above, that he knew Ben Jonson well. Digges was not apparently an actor, he was a writer, and a poet. He would have known, as did Jonson, that we have two Shakespeares, one an elusive genius of literature, the other, Shaxper the trader and small time actor who called himself Shakespeare in middle life. For some reason we have not yet established, Jonson masterminded the production of the FF and so cleverly arranged the Preface that those who were ignorant of the truth would think without question that Shaxper was Shakespeare and being eulogized. But for those who knew who Shakespeare the poet/dramatist was, the Preface was so designed that they could see the true Shakespeare was really being eulogized without disclosing who he was. Leonard Digges' poem, I suggest, does just that, (as did Jonson's poem). Here's how he did it.

The title is To the Memory of the deceased Author Master W. Shakespeare. This makes it very clear the person being addressed is deceased, and was an author.

But when we come to the poem itself, let's look at the very first word in the first line:

266: Shake-speare, at length thy pious fellowes giue


274: That is not Shake-speares; eu'ry Line, each Verse


286: Be sure, our Shake-speare, thou canst neuer dye,

What, I suggest, Digges is making perfectly clear is that he recognizes the poet's name was a pseudonym, spelt exactly as the poet/dramatist did in his published plays Richard 2nd in 1598 and Henry 4.1 in 1599. Shaxper never did, to the best of my knowledge, use the hyphenated form. Digges is telling us that it's the poet/dramatist, not the Stratford man he's writing about, and he's deliberately differentiating between the two.

Now let's look at the line on which Stratfordians depend to say Shaxper was Shakespeare, written by a man who knew Shaxper personally:

269: And Time dissolues thy Stratford Moniment,

Digges is saying exactly what the poet/dramatist said in his sonnets: that he knew his writing was immortal and would outlast many earthly things. We have to remember that the 'monument' in the Stratford-on-Avon church was not to Shaxper the sometime actor. It was a monument supposedly to a great dramatist. And, with his true knowledge of the situation, I suggest that's exactly what Digges is saying. If you look at lines 266-270 you will see, I think, that Digges is saying: your pious fellows, that is, these fellow members of the acting/theatre world fraternity (not just of the Globe theatre) are here giving the world at large your works by which your name must outlive your tomb and the monument set up in the Stratford church to honour your reputation as a poet/dramatist. It wouldn't matter whether the monument was set up in Stratford-on-Avon or Stratford north of London (as some Oxfordians suggest), or Westminster Abbey. It doesn't matter where the monument(s) are, they'll all dissolve and the works and name of Shake-speare will survive all these earthly monuments. Digges is not referring to a monument to Shaxper, but to the deceased Author, who he clearly defines in his poem.


There remains one more poem, this one by I. M. :

289: To the memorie of M[aister]. W. Shake-speare.
290: Wee wondred (Shake-speare) that thou went'st so soone
291: From the Worlds-Stage, to the Graues-Tyring-roome.
292: Wee thought thee dead, but this thy printed worth,
293: Tels thy Spectators, that thou went'st but forth
294: To enter with applause. An Actors Art,
295: Can dye, and liue, to acte a second part.
296: That's but an Exit of Mortalitie;
297: This, a Re-entrance to a Plaudite.
298: I.M.

It has been suggested that this IM is not James Mabbe, as Chambers suggested, but is John Marston. As Marston and Jonson combined talents to write a play that was suppressed by the authorities and landed them both in jail, it might be worth considering the IM poem briefly as by Marston, an Oxford graduate, a lawyer, and said to be later a cleric whose parish was close to the Wilton House estate where Jonson had been given a room by the Earl of Pembroke. Here's another piece by Marston,

...Far fly thy fame.

Most, most of me beloved, whose silent name

One letter bounds. Thy true judicial style

I ever honour...

Who was this written to honour? Someone whose name is not revealed, but 'one letter bounds.' This fits one poet we know: Edward de Vere, 'bound' by the one letter 'e.' The researcher who pointed this out leaves it at that. But I looked at it and thought, may be. I was not convinced. But fortunately my eyes rested on the last three words. I then realized these were a dead give-away for de Vere. He often played with various combinations of 'ever,' it was a play on the Vere name, with his initial: E(dward) Ver(e): E.Ver (chapters 9 and 23). And Marston is saying 'I E. Ver honour.' A clever little pun. This is proof positive, I suggest, that Marston was referring to de Vere. It also confirms the 'silence' surrounding his name, and his legalistic style of writing. This from Marston, himself a lawyer. As to Shakespeare's legal aptitude, we discussed sonnet 46 briefly in chapter 17. Here's the entire sonnet:

MIne eye and heart are at a mortall warre,
How to deuide the conquest of thy sight,
Mine eye, my heart their pictures sight would barre,
My heart, mine eye the freedome of that right,
My heart doth plead that thou in him doost lye,
(A closet neuer pearst with christall eyes)
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
And sayes in him their faire appearance lyes.
To side [decide] this title is impannelled
A quest of thoughts, all tennants to the heart,
And by their verdict is determined
The cleere eyes moyitie, and he deare hearts part,
As thus, mine eyes due is their outward part,
And my hearts right, their inward loue of heart.

Lord Chief Justice Campbell comments

"I need not go further than this sonnet, which is so intensely legal in its language and imagery, that without a considerable knowledge of English forensic procedure it cannot be fully understood. A lover being supposed to have made a conquest of (i.e. to have gained by purchase) his misress, his eye and his heart, holding as joint-tenants, have a contest as to how she is to be partitioned between them--each moiety then to be held in severalty. There are regular pleadings in the suit, the heart being represented as Plaintiff and the eye as Defendant. At last issue is joined on what the one affirms and the other denies. Now a jury (in the nature of an inquest) is to be impanneled to "side" and by their verdict to apportion between the litigating parties the subject matter to be decided. The jury fortunately are unanimous, and after due deliberation find for the eye in respect of the lady's outward form, and for the heart in respect of her inward love..."

Lord Chief Justice Campbell was also a Lord Chancellor of England and was well versed in early English law. As you can see, sometime lawyer Marston's little poetic reference ties de Vere to a true judicial style, and to silence, while here we have the true judicial style of Shakespeare's sonnet 46 with confirming commentary by an impeccable jurist.

But perhaps Chambers was right, and I. M. was James Mabbe (1572- 1642?). Apparently he translated the 'tragicke-comedy of Calesto and Melebea from the Spanish.' He was also renowned for his translation of Guzman de Alfarache by Mateo Aleman. Elsewhere we're told:

In his other publications Blount commissioned Ben Jonson, Leonard Digges, and James Mabbe to write dedicatory poems to one another, presumably because they knew one another in real life. Blount published Digges's translation of Claudian in 1617 and his translation of Cespeses's Gerardo the year before the Folio. In 1623, Digges contributed an impersonal commendatory verse to Guzman's The Rogue, translated by James Mabbe, and published by Blount. Ben Jonson wrote verse for Mabbe's book, and Blount had published Jonson's 1605 Sejanus.

What did Mabbe say in his poem that interests us here? Both in the title and the first line Mabbe identifies the subject of his poem as 'Shake-speare.' He continues and completes his poem as a metaphor of an actor receiving plaudits for his performance on 'the Worlds-Stage.' This is a clever way to identify the author by the hyphenated form of address, and to suggest the actor Shaxper with use of the metaphor. But his scene is the world and its stage, not the Globe theatre. It confirms the elusive nobleman as the author, and implies Shaxper to those ignorant of the truth of the matter.


This little poem is followed by

The Names of the Principal Actors in all these Playes.

299: The Workes of William Shakespeare,
300: containing all his Comedies, Histories, and
301: Tragedies: Truely set forth, according to their first
303: The Names of the Principall Actors
304: in all these Playes.
305: William Shakespeare.
306: Richard Burbadge.
307: Iohn Hemmings.
308: Augustine Phillips.
309: William Kempe.
310: Thomas Poope.
311: George Bryan.
312: Henry Condell.
313: William Slye.
314: Richard Cowly.
315: Iohn Lowine.
316: Samuell Crosse.
317: Alexander Cooke.
318: Samuel Gilburne.
319: Robert Armin.
320: William Ostler.
321: Nathan Field.
322: Iohn Vnderwood.
323: Nicholas Tooley.
324: William Ecclestone.
325: Ioseph Taylor.
326: Robert Benfield.
327: Robert Goughe.
328: Richard Robinson.
329: Iohn Shancke.
330: Iohn Rice.

First on the list is William Shakespeare, followed by Richard Burbadge, then John Hemmings, Eighth is Henry Condell. The list is at least roughly in order of merit, importance and popularity. To be more accurate, Heminge should probably rank just before Condell and 'William Shakespeare,' meaning Shaxper, should rank about 16th with Richard Burbage first by a long way. One can see the difficulty of the publishers. As the volume is dedicated to the author Shakespeare's works, it would not be appropriate to list someone of that name 16th on the list of actors. It was necessary to put him on the list to substantiate the image of the Stratford man. So they did the best they could and inappropriately placed him at the head of the list. It's doubtful that even the elusive nobleman writing as Shakespeare could claim first place over Richard Burbage as an actor.

The diligent Shakespearean (and Stratfordian) scholar Chambers gives two references to Shakespeare as an actor; in 1603 and 1604, in association with Burbage, Heminge, Condell, Augustine Philips, and others. In 1605 Shaxper and Condell were legatees under Phillips will. (See chapter 5). Those are the only references to the name Shakespeare as an actor apparently recorded before 1616, the year of Shaxper's death. There are two other subsequent references to 'Shakespeare' as an actor, with Burbage, Heminge, Condell and Phillips. Both of these were in the First Folio of Ben Jonson's works, published in 1616. They show 'William Shakespeare" as having been an actor in 1598 in Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, and in 1603 in Sejanus.

With the list of actors in the plays we have come to the end of the Preface to the First Folio of 1623. What part did Ben Jonson play in all this? To get a better answer we need to look at his career, to see what kind of person he was.

Ben Jonson ( 1572-1637) depending on which biography you consult, was born one, or two, months after his father's death. Jonson claimed he came from a Carlisle family (north country) and his father suffered in estate and person under Queen Mary, causing him to 'turn minister.' Two years after Ben Jonson's birth his mother married a master bricklayer living near Charing Cross, London, who sent his step-son to a private school in St. Martin's Lane. Next Ben was sent to Westminster School, possibly paid for by William Camden, then second, and later headmaster of that famous school. When Jonson left, instead of university, he was entered into his stepfather's trade. Either before or after his marriage in about 1592 he went to the Low Countries and joined as a soldier. This would probably have been under Sir Francis Vere, (yes, another Vere, cousin of Edward de Vere) whose three English regiments were not withdrawn home before 1592. Jonson's eldest daughter Maria died in November 1593 when his epigram tells us she was only six months old. His wife provided him with several children. He later told Drummond she was "a shrew, but honest." For an undated period of 5 years he lived without her, thanks to the hospitality of Lord Albany. There he studied prodigiously in the classics and literature, with periods of recreation at taverns.

On July 28, 1597 Philip Henslowe's diary noted a loan of £4 to 'Bengemen Johnson player.' Also in July the Earl of Pembroke's men performed The Isle of Dogs, a satirical play by Nashe, possibly with Marston and Jonson. It was suppressed and the Privy Council ordered the arrest of the author(s) and actors. Several were imprisoned including Ben Jonson. Nashe got away, as did some of the actors, hiding in the country. A Privy Council minute of October 8, 1597 records the 'warrant for the releasing of Benjamin Johnson' on October 3rd. The Privy Council not only had every copy of the play destroyed, it appointed a commission to find out 'what copies they have given forth... and to whom.' The Council even went so far as to order 'all playhouses in and about London to be plucked down' but this was never put into effect.

On December 3, 1597 Henslowe advanced Jonson £1 for a play to be completed before Christmas. And apparently Jonson played a leading role in Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. It seems Jonson was now writing plays for Henslowe, but except for 'The Case is Altered' these early plays are known, if at all, only by their titles. He may have written comedies and tragedies, but only two tragedies of his have survived: Sejanus, printed 1605, and Catiline, 1611. On January 5, 1598 he borrowed 5/- from Henslowe. But in 1598 there came the successful presentation by the Lord Chamberlain's Theatrical Company of his Every Man in His Humour at the Curtain theatre. This established his reputation. The play was published in 1601. His relationship with Henslowe and the Lord Admiral's Company was intermittent, and became broken by a serious quarrel. The Case is Altered, acted by the children of the Blackfriars, has a satirical attack upon the pageant poet Anthony Munday (some time employee of de Vere). It also contains oblique references to Shakespeare's Shylock and his daughter. It's generally dated to the end of 1598.

On September 11, 1598 in Hogsden Fields, Jonson fought a duel with Gabriel Spenser, an actor in Henslowe's company. Jonson killed him. He pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter, was imprisoned, and in danger of being hung at the gallows. But he escaped capital punishment by pleading 'benefit of clergy': the ability to read from the Latin Bible, and was released after a short imprisonment and being branded on his left thumb.

In 1599 the same Theatre Company acted Jonson's Every Man Out of His Humour, the largest play ever written for the Elizabethan public theatre. In this play he 'opened battle, but not yet overtly' on contemporary writers. It was a disaster. Jonson had to look elsewhere to produce his work. But subsequently it was performed before the Queen. Then Cynthia's Revels, performed in 1600, contained attacks on Dekker and Marston. He ridiculed them both again in The Poetaster (1601). Dekker retaliated in Satiromastis.

In 1602 Jonson received £10 for a play now lost, He was now known as a poet and masque writer. He dedicated his tragedy Sejanus to Lord Albany, his patron, but either on its performance or publication in 1605 he was called before the Privy Council by Lord Northampton and accused of 'papery and treason.' With the accession of King James Jonson was able to develop a capability with masques that well pleased the royals. He was also fortunate to have Inigo Jones, the famous architect, design the scenery and other accoutrements for the masques, although they apparently quarrelled and patched up their differences from time to time.

In 1605 Jonson and his wife were brought before the consistory court in London to explain their lack of participation in the Anglican church. He denied his wife was guilty, but admitted his religious opinions kept him aloof from attendance. This was resolved by his agreeing to confer with learned men to persuade him if they could. He took 6 years to conform.

Jonson reconciled with Dekker, and they produced a masque together (1604), and he reconciled with Marston, resulting in his contributing to Eastward Ho, a comedy by Chapman and Marston (1605). And when the authors were arrested for parts deemed insulting to the Scots, Jonson 'voluntarily imprisoned himself' with them. According to Jonson they were threatened with mutilation of their ears and noses. They were soon released. He became second only to Shakespeare in comedies. Volpone (1606) and The Alchemist (1610) were the most popular plays of their time. Life improved for him in 1615 when the Earl of Pembroke became Lord Chamberlain, in charge of theatres, plays and acting companies. He increased Jonson's annual payment by the Crown from £20 to 100 marks (a mark = 13/4d, so 100 = £66.13.4). By 1616 Jonson had produced nearly all the plays which have made him famous, and he published the first volume of the folio collected edition of his works. He had other patrons from time to time during this period. Sir Robert Townshend and Lord Ambiguy were two. Later, the Countess of Rutland (Sidney's daughter) and her cousin, Lady Wroth. He was appointed tutor/governor to the eldest son of Sir Walter Ralegh, then a state prisoner in the Tower. In 1618 he walked to Scotland, some 360-400 miles depending on how he went and how winding the roads were.

He spent 18 months there and was elected an honorary burgess and guild brother of Edinburgh. He was entertained by the learned Scots poet William Drummond who in his notes said "a great lover and praiser of himself, a contemner and scorner of others." In May 1619 he visited Oxford to receive an honorary MA degree, much rarer then than now. In about 1621 his personal library burnt down, and he lost books and his own manuscripts. In 1621 his annual pension was increased to £200. This seems to have perhaps continued during the preparation and publishing of the 1623 First Folio, but had dropped back to the 100 marks when Charles 1st became king in 1625. The new king, unlike his father, seldom called on Jonson for entertainment. His last plays were not crowd pleasers. He apparently suffered a stroke in about 1628. The Duke of Newcastle commissioned him to write two masques (1634), He was made city chronologer, theoretically responsible for the city (of London's) pageants; there were apparently complaints he was not doing his job, but in 1634 it was renewed and made a pension. He died in 1637 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

For what it's worth, here is my conclusion about the First Folio of 1623, based on the evidence reviewed in this independent investigation.

Jonson struggled with poverty almost all his life. He knew perfectly well who the author of the Shakespeare plays was. He admired him for his brilliance and acknowledged his ability in literature, but detested him as a rival, seeing the man waste his considerable substance, ruin his life and personal reputation, while Jonson had no such luxury. Jonson saw himself as a man of great ability who was born into a life of struggle against miserable fortune.

Heminge and Condell may well have gone to the various estates of the nobility for copies of the quartos and/or original manuscripts of the many unpublished plays, and transported them to the printers, later returning them to their owners: Derby, the Pembrokes; Lord Norris (husband of Lady Bridget Vere (1584-1620?) 2nd daughter of Edward de Vere; Sir Horatio Vere (1565-1635); the family of Sir Francis Vere (1560-1609); Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford (1593-1625).

The printers had their own problems. Either their proof reader, if any, was negligent or incompetent or both. The mass of printing and textual errors in the FF may indicate that it was left to Jonson to settle with Heminge and Condell and to provide the engraving and the eulogies to Shakespeare from the £200 per annum paid him during the 2-3 years of production of the FF. This may be why the near-bankrupt printer and Ed. Blount were selected and why the youngest member of a family of engravers (father, uncle and older brother) was engaged to provide the image of Shakespeare. Here's what The Grove Dictionary of Art has to say on that:

The only positive fact known about the younger, Martin Droeshout the younger, is that he was born in 1601. The common attribution to him of the Shakespeare engraving cannot be sustained: the editors of the First Folio would not have entrusted such an important commission to someone who was only 15 when Shakespeare died and was still in his very early twenties when the First Folio appeared.

However, it appears that the actual engraving has his name at the lower left either placed there by him or fraudulently inserted by someone else.

If Jonson was responsible for organizing the entire production from his augmented annual stipend, excluding actual printing costs, it would also explain why Heminge, Condell, Holland, Digges and Mabbe (if I. M. is Mabbe) were employed to write the pieces to the sponsors, the readers, and provide the eulogies. The scope and magnitude of the FF called for more prestigious writers to participate. As the annual payment to Jonson came from the government, it looks as though the Pembrokes facilitated the production of the FF but did not personally finance it.

The only problem left is the statement by the actors Heminge and Condell: keep the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare, by humble offer of his plays.

One could, I suppose, argue that they are speaking in the broader sense of fellowship in the theatre industry at large, but it is better to consider it as specific to Shaxper with whom we know they had involvement in legal transactions. There is no problem in the first part of their sentence. But we know from this investigation they are mistaken in stating these were 'his plays.' I do not believe they intended deception. That means, I suggest, either they honestly believed Shaxper was Shakespeare the author, or that the plays were legally 'his.' This in turn means that Shaxper brought the real author's plays to the Globe and it was either accepted by the actors that Shaxper had written the plays he brought in, as he now called himself William Shakespeare, or, that he had legal title to the plays which were therefore 'his.' That's why he never blotted out a single line. He couldn't as he didn't write the lines in the first place, and wouldn't have known how to vary them.

In chapter 3 we found Shaxper's lack of writing skill excluded his being a writer. In chapter 4 we calculated that he came by more money than he could have accumulated in the theatre business and as a writer. This supported the statement in the Nicholas Rowe 'biography' of Shaxper that Sir William D'Avenant said that the Earl of Southampton gave Shaxper £1,000 to buy property. If so, what was Shaxper's consideration for the contractual agreement? What did he have to offer? Somehow he seems to have used the only assets he had: business acumen; he worked at the Globe theatre; and since the publication of 'Venus and Adonis' in 1593, he changed William Shaxper (pronounced with a short 'a' sound) to William Shakespeare with a long 'a' sound. Southampton, the only known patron of the real poet/dramatist Shakespeare, and here apparently acting for the true Shakespeare, paid Shaxper the £1,000 to buy property. Shaxper must have said he wanted it for that purpose, and Shaxper bought property with the money when paid to him. What did Shaxper do for his part of the agreement? The principal change in Shaxper's life was that he now brought manuscripts of plays of great literary merit and value to the Globe theatre, and represented them as being by William Shakespeare; quite truthfully. But in actuality the plays were not Shaxper's, he being the pseudo-Shakespeare.

This piece of ostensible duplicity caused Heminge and Condell either to believe they really were 'his plays,' or merely to acknowledge the legal fiction that they were now 'his plays,' which in a technical legal sense perhaps they were, by some undisclosed agreement. Whatever the purpose of that agreement might have been, the terms apparently made Shaxper the conduit between the real author and the Globe theatre management, but did not make Shaxper the real author, which he could never have been. But however it was arranged, something caused Heminge and Condell to believe that they were 'his plays.' (Shaxper's).

The letter from de Vere to Lord Burghley was put in Note 3 at the end of chapter 34, to contrast his writing style with a letter by William Stanley, Earl of Derby, (who married de Vere's eldest daughter Elizabeth). Stanley was also writing to Burghley. De Vere was discussing with Burghley the merits of the young lad of 17 whom the Earl and Countess of Pembroke were keen to have marry de Vere's daughter Bridget, age 13. I did not then realize that the lad would later become William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who in the next chapter would be the senior of the Pair of Incomparable Brethren sponsoring the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. And Susan, youngest daughter of de Vere, married Philip, brother of William. Philip was now Earl of Montgomery, the younger of the Incomparable Pair of Brethren sponsoring the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays.

Susan Vere, Countess of Montgomery, had performed in Masques at Court in 1604, 1605, 1606, 1608, and 1609; some at least were created by Ben Jonson. She died within 7 years of the publication of the First Folio. We have then, a reason why the First Folio was published. Montgomery was giving his wife, daughter of de Vere, a handsome present of all her father's plays, and Philip's brother William, as Lord Chamberlain, and patron of Jonson, was in a unique position to arrange this as he was the appointed official responsible for theatres, plays and actors. Jonson happened to be Poet Laureate, and as always, in need of money and looking for work.

The Pembrokes, and Susan in particular, did not want the de Vere name in their generation tarnished by reminding people of the Sonnets, and all the disgrace brought on the Vere name by her father, who deliberately and intentionally sank into obscurity and anonymity to spare his family, and told in his (Shakespeare's) sonnets (71 and 72) that he was doing so (chapters 18 and 26). That's why Jonson cleverly steered around the problem, as instructed by the patrons, not actually saying anything untruthful about the author of the plays, Shakespeare, but ambiguously leading ignorant readers towards Shaxper. Jonson's cohorts eulogizing in the FF followed the same pattern. The FF as it stands does not exclude de Vere as Shakespeare. To the contrary, the family connection confirms it beyond a reasonable doubt.



J. C. Smith, M. A., formerly exhibitioner of Trinity College Oxford and editor of Much Ado About Nothing (Warwick edition), has this to say in his Introduction:

1. History of the Play

... First mentioned in the Stationers' Register under date August 4th [1600], where it is noted ... as a book to be 'stayed' i.e. not printed without further authority. The note (it is not a regular entry) points to an attempted piracy against which a protest had been lodged. A few weeks later our play was published in a sixpenny quarto by Andrew Wise and William Apsley, being entered to them in the Register under date August 23rd. The quarto presents a very good text, but was not revised by Shakespeare. It retains the name of a character, Innogen, who never appears. That it frequently marks exits too early, and in one place gives the names of the actors for those of the characters, are signs that it was printed from a playhouse copy supplemented by the actors parts.

This William Apsley, printer, is presumably the W. Apsley referred to in the First Folio among the printers and or publishers.



Since writing (and posting) this chapter I have obtained a copy of a book recommended through email by a reader of this web page. This book was also referred to in Note 1 to Chapter 5 (Wills). It's by Charles Hamilton, In Search of Shakespeare, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, New York, London, 1985. Here are my comments:

Hamilton tells us he had considerable experience in reading Elizabethan and other older (handwritten) documents. He has thoughtfully provided photos of Shaxper's complete will in the original handwriting. He claims it is a holograph will. This will, apparently first 'discovered' in the 18th century, has since then been handled many times by researchers and is said to be in very poor condition now. Hamilton did not see the original but relied on photos. I believe there is factual evidence against its being a holograph will.

First, such a will, in the writing of the testator, does not require witnessing, but Shaxper's will has four witnesses. This is apparently because the two beneficiaries who were witnesses are not legal witnesses.

Next, others have stated that the intercalations in the will are by a different hand.

Further, all the six known signatures of Shaxper show him to be a very poor, inexperienced writer who created many blots. This is true for the three signatures required on legal documents other than the three on the will. I don't doubt that Shaxper's mind was behind the production of the will, but not his pen. The writer of the will was an experienced, relatively proficient writer. The similarity, in so far as there is any, I suggest is because of the (provincial) use of the secretary hand in both cases.

What interests us here is that the will itself shows none of the intercalations to have been initialled by the testator, which means they were not valid in law, since there is no proof as to when they were written on the will.


Should you disagree with my analysis of line 153 and favour the Stratfordian view, consider this:

The plays were clearly written by a man reasonably well versed in Latin, whereas Oxford's surviving letters reveal that he was hopeless at Latin."

This excerpt comes from the Web, where it was reprinted from Shakespeare's Face (2002) by Stephanie Nolan (having contributions by 7 Stratfordians including that of Jonathan Bate, a university professor, whose article is the one quoted, and referred to here as JB).

De Vere remains a candidate for Shakespeare, if JB is right in his interpretation of line 153 of Jonson's poem: that Shakespeare had small Latin and less Greek; and if he's correct in saying that Oxford was hopeless at Latin.

JB doubles back on himself by adding that Jonson was a prodigious classical scholar and what he thought was small could be great to others. This is necessary because he says that Shakespeare's plays were clearly written by a man reasonably well versed in Latin, But he knows or should know there is no factual evidence that the man from Stratford had any knowledge of Latin whatsoever.

What is the reference for saying Oxford was hopeless at Latin? Here's what the article says:

Alan Nelson of the University of California, Berkeley ... has tracked down every extant piece of writing by, and reference to, the wretched Earl. Thanks to Nelson's researches, the case for Oxford as Shakespeare will die in the early twenty-first century...

So it appears that Professor Nelson is the source for saying that Oxford was hopeless at Latin. However, when I began my own investigation several years ago I did not know whether the man from Stratford or someone else was Shakespeare. I communicated by email with Alan Nelson intermittently over a period of many months. He was always prompt and informative in his replies. I also read through his extensive web site on de Vere as I prefer to call him. On 2000 10 16 I found a section on Orazio Cogno, the Italian Choirboy brought back (with his parents permission) by de Vere to England at the end of de Vere's stay in Italy. Alan Nelson had evidence to suggest their relationship was homosexual. The web page on the boy had this to say, and I quote:

The identity of this Italian servant and many details of his life with Oxford are verified by a deposition which he gave to the Inquisition on 27 August 1577, shortly after his return to Venice. He was then 17.... Orazio was being interrogated on suspicion of heresy... Orazio reported that Oxford "speaks Latin and Italian well."

This is firm third party irrefutable evidence from an impeccable source that de Vere spoke both Latin (mentioned first) and Italian well.

It does not tell us that he was well versed in writing Latin. For this evidence we can turn to the B. M. Ward biography of the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. (1928), a well researched book that makes no attempt to associate de Vere with the works of Shakespeare. Ward provides us with de Vere's daily routine as a minor and Royal Ward at Cecil House:

7-7.30 Dancing
7.30-8 Breakfast
8-9 French
9-10 Latin
10-10.30 Common Prayers Writing and Drawing Dinner
1-2 Cosmography
2-3 Latin
3-4 French
4-4.30 Pen exercises
Common Prayers Supper

This routine was modified on Holy Days. Ward tells us his tutor was Lawrence Nowell, Dean of Lichfield. In June 1563 Nowell wrote a Latin letter to Lord Burghley (Ward Master) in which he mentioned "I clearly see that my work for the Earl of Oxford cannot be much longer required." De Vere was then 13. He next attended St. John's College Cambridge and was awarded a degree when 14½. By the time he was 19 he was buying from

William Seres, Stationer, a Geneva Bible, gilt; a Chaucer; Plutarch's works in French, with other books and paper.

And a few months later

Tully's and Plato's works in folio, with other books, paper and nibs.

Tully was Cicero, so de Vere had both Greek and Roman non-fiction writers in his library. It's probable that they were in the original Greek and Latin, although the Plato may have been translated into Latin. All this evidence merely shows that de Vere was a student of Latin and apparently had no formal training in Greek. It tells us nothing about his facility with written Latin.

Referring back to Ward's biography, page 80:

The real influence which his university career and subsequent reading had left upon his mind was, however, the glory of the classical languages, more especially of Latin...When therefore, he found his old Cambridge tutor, Bartholomew Clerke, engaged on a translation from Italian into Latin his much admired author (Balthasar Castiglione), he took the greatest interest in the progress of the work, and decided on the occasion of its publication to give it as powerful a send-off as possible by contributing an appreciative and enthusiastic preface. As this preface seems to have been Oxford's first serious incursion into literature... it is important that it should be given in full. The following is a translation of this eloquent piece of Latin prose;

Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England, Viscount Bulbeck and Baron Scales and Badlesmere to the Reader-Greeting.

A frequent and earnest consideration of the translation of Castiglione's Italian work, which has now for a long time been undertaken and finally carried out by my friend Clerke, ...

This translation from de Vere's Latin runs on through pages 81 and 82 to about half-way down page 83. It ends:

Given at the Royal Court on the 5th of January 1571.

De Vere was almost 21.

It provides us with reliable evidence that de Vere was at home in educated circles where Latin was a usable language and we now know that de Vere not only spoke Latin well, he could also write it well. We can see why the Stratfordian we quoted referred to the 'wretched Earl.' This is understandable. In my own investigation I found many times I just could not shake off de Vere. No matter what evidence I examined, de Vere seemed always to be involved in one way or another.

The Stratfordian also says that the man from Stratford could have gone to Stratford Grammar School, this school could have been such as to put modern high schools to shame, the Stratford man could have been a genius, he could have written all the plays of Shakespeare. We might grant one 'could have' but as there is no factual evidence for any of this - grant the whole scenario? I think common sense and probability say no.

To Chapter 34 To Chapter 36

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