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Shakespeare and the Origins of English

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Shakespeare and the Origins of English NEIL RHODES



Great Clarendon Street, Oxford ox2 6DP Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford New York Auckland Bangkok Buenos Aires Cape Town Chennai Dar es Salaam Delhi Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kolkata Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai Nairobi São Paulo Shanghai Taipei Tokyo Toronto Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York © Neil Rhodes 2004 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published 2004 First published in paperback 2007 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Data available ISBN 978–0–19–924572–7 (Hbk.) 978–0–19–923593–3 (Pbk.) 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Typeset by Hope Services (Abingdon) Ltd. Printed in Great Britain on acid-free paper by Biddles Ltd, King’s Lynn, Norfolk




with love


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Acknowledgements This book has its own origins in an earlier work about Renaissance eloquence and my subsequent thoughts about the fate of rhetoric after that period. These took the form of an essay called ‘From Rhetoric to Criticism’ which appeared in Robert Crawford (ed.), The Scottish Invention of English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) and I am grateful to Cambridge University Press for permission to use this material in revised form as part of Chapter 6. At the same time I was thinking about an alternative model of eloquence to the one discussed in the earlier book and this resulted in an article, ‘The Controversial Plot: Declamation and the Concept of the Problem Play’, published in Modern Language Review 95.3 (2000). I am grateful to the Modern Humanities Research Association and the editors of MLR for permission to redeploy this in Chapter 3. Meanwhile, the plan of the present book had become clear to me and I am greatly indebted to Sophie Goldsworthy at Oxford University Press for her faith in the project at this stage. Most of the work for the book was done in 2001, and I would like to thank the School of English at St Andrews and the AHRB for funding a period of research leave that enabled me to concentrate on that. More recently, parts of Chapters 4 and 5 have appeared separately, in earlier versions, as ‘Shakespeare the Barbarian’, in Jennifer Richards (ed.), (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) and ‘Shakespeare’s Computer: Commonplaces/Databases’, in The Shakespearean International Yearbook, 3 (2004). I am grateful to Macmillan and Ashgate for permission to reuse this material. Many people have helped me to complete this work, directly or indirectly, and I would like to thank the following: Michael Alexander, Sarah Annes Brown, Robert Crawford, Ian Donaldson, Jill Gamble, Andrew Hadfield, Tom Healy, Lorna Hutson, Tom Jones, Laurie Maguire, Leah Marcus, Frances Mullan, Anne Lake Prescott, Elizabeth Prochaska, Jennifer Richards, Nick Roe, Jonathan Sawday, Fred Schurink, Helen Smith, and Jane Sommerville. I have been fortunate in having an exceptionally congenial environment, both physically and in human terms, in which to write this book,



and it is a pleasure to acknowledge the contribution of my colleagues and students at St Andrews towards creating that environment. But I would like to give particular thanks, not just for that, but for their close reading of successive drafts of the book, to Alex Davis, Rachel Heard and Andrew Murphy. They have saved me from many errors and suggested many improvements. Finally, I am grateful in countless ways to my wife, Shirley Rhodes, both for her advice and good judgement and for her personal support in the course of what has been a long and absorbing project. While this is a book about origins it also looks to the present and to the future, so it is appropriate that it should be dedicated to our children.





1.1 Language as Living Speech 1.2 Hamlet’s Media Studies

5 29



2.1 School Ties 2.2 Writing against the Academy

45 68



3.1 Speech-Writing 3.2 Problems at Work 3.3 Shakespeare’s Controversial Plots

85 88 98



4.1 Native Feet 4.2 Shakespeare the Barbarian

118 134



5.1 Shakespeare’s Computer 5.2 Resources for English

149 168



6.1 From Rhetoric to Criticism 6.2 Shakespeare and the Language of the Heart

189 208







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Introduction This book is about what there was before there was a subject called English and about how that became English. It may have something in common with those searches for origins that proliferated in the mideighteenth century, rather brusquely dismissed by Dugald Stewart, Adam Smith’s first biographer, as ‘conjectural histories’. Those dubious investigations would certainly include Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages, but perhaps also Hugh Blair’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, the first English Studies textbook and a work that derives from similar sources. The present book is focused specifically on Shakespeare’s role in the origins of the subject, and is therefore very much concerned with Shakespeare and education, though it concentrates on the early modern period, up to the late eighteenth century, before his canonical status became absolutely secure. It deals with the kinds of literary and educational practice that would have formed his experience and shaped his work. What it attempts to do is to trace the origins of English in certain aspects of the educational regime that existed before English literature became an established part of the curriculum. It then presents Shakespeare as both a product of those disciplines in the Renaissance and, in the eighteenth century, as an agent of their transformation into the subject that emerged as the modern study of English. At the same time my intention has been to address this earlier historical period from the point of view of the present state of English as a subject. Since there has recently been an almost obsessive devotion to the popularization of history through appealing anachronisms (the Gunpowder Plot as Jacobean 9/11 and so on) this part of my project requires some explanation. I do indeed hope to appeal to readers other than specialists, which is why I have tried to write in an accessible style; to do otherwise would, anyway, be humiliatingly inappropriate in a book that is so much concerned with expression. But the analogies I make between modern and early modern cultural practices serve a different purpose. The point of my transferring terms such as ‘media studies’ and ‘creative writing’, or the technology of computing, to



earlier cultural contexts is both to invite further reflection on the nature of the practices themselves and also to offer new ways of thinking about their relationship to English as a subject. Conversely, I have also offered older explanations of what might appear to be specifically modern phenomena; for example, by redescribing radical or ‘problematizing’ approaches to Shakespeare in terms of Renaissance rhetoric. So my aim has been not just to attempt an explanation of where English came from, but also to suggest how some of the things that we do now under the name of ‘English’ might usefully be understood in a wider historical perspective. It is just possible that by extending our view of its past we may achieve a clearer view of its future. But what of Shakespeare’s own education? We know that he didn’t do English at school because the subject wasn’t then in existence, but, while he would have had to spend a great deal of his time learning Latin, it would be misleading to describe what he studied as ‘Classics’. It is true that Latinity was an end as well as a means. However, Latinity in this context is best regarded as covering a range of active, expressive skills that we can group under ‘rhetoric’, and the study of literature and drama was certainly seen as an important way of acquiring those skills. So we might say that, without studying English Shakespeare nonetheless had a literary education. At the same time, given its intensely rhetorical character, this was a regime that paid particular attention to the arts of speech as distinct from writing. So as well as being literary it was a curriculum orientated towards drama. How this regime and the wider cultural contexts that it reflects evolved into the subject that we now call English is the theme of the later chapters of this book. I begin, however, with speech, the original medium of communication, and with the related terms ‘expression’ and ‘articulation’. The first chapter is concerned with speech-based skills and with the Renaissance literary and educational values associated with these, notably ‘liveliness’. The issues raised in the first part of the chapter are then developed in a discussion of Hamlet, a play (and character) much concerned with the problems of the media, with the relations between the oral and the written, print and performance. Echoing this, the second chapter moves from speech to writing and looks briefly into the Elizabethan classroom. I argue that we should understand what went on there in terms of process rather than content and also in terms of what we would now call transferable skills. But what was the point of the impressive training in eloquence acquired there, and what was its



effect? I turn for an answer to Love’s Labour’s Lost, the play where Shakespeare specifically tackles the question of educational aims and objectives, or ‘the end of study’, as he more succinctly puts it. The third chapter brings together the themes of the first two in a discussion of the element in Elizabethan education that undoubtedly had a practical objective: speech-writing. I focus here on the technique of arguing on both sides of the question and suggest how this may have been responsible for Shakespeare’s well-known even-handedness and for the radical perspectives he creates in much of his drama. I end with a discussion of Measure for Measure and two other ‘problematic’ plays. These first three chapters, then, highlight the principal aspects of the educational regime that Shakespeare would have experienced and show how they informed his plays. They also offer a prospectus for the subsequent development of English. The second part of the book deals with the rise of the vernacular. Chapter 4 extends the theme of moral relativism discussed in the previous chapter into the cultural sphere and describes the shifting perceptions of classical civility and native English babarity. I discuss specifically the Renaissance belief in poetry as part of the civilizing process and the importance for the English of developing a native English metre. The second part of the chapter then looks at the relations between eloquence and barbarity in two plays from the beginning and end of Shakespeare’s career, Titus Andronicus and The Tempest, which reflect the nation’s change in status and anticipate the replacement of Latin by English as the imperial tongue. The triumph of the vernacular is of course the precondition for the rise of English Studies. Chapter 5 takes one central aspect of the educational curriculum mentioned earlier, the commonplace method, and shows first the creative uses to which Shakespeare put this, and then how his own texts are transformed into commonplace material in a new vernacular tradition. The evolution of commonplace-book into anthology creates resources for English Studies at the same time as the mantle of classical authority is handed over to the vernacular. Like many other practices described in this book, the commonplace method is an aspect of rhetoric. The final chapter shows how English Studies sprang from the transformation of rhetoric into criticism in the mid-eighteenth century and concentrates particularly on England’s neighbours to the north and south, Scotland and France. I argue that (paradoxically) it was French belles-lettres that was responsible for the institutionalization of English Studies in Scotland, and later abroad, as



England’s imperial partner aimed to acquire the cultural capital represented by English taste and the English national poet. Yet at the moment of the inception of English Studies the French connection was being broken, in Europe, as the new cult of Shakespeare and the language of the heart swept away the old neoclassical values. That cult found its formal exponent in Henry Home, Lord Kames, whose Elements of Criticism, first published in 1762, uses Shakespeare as its critical touchstone. Kames’s work marks the point that English arrives as an academic subject. What follows, then, is a kind of history, but one that operates with some degree of synchronicity and anachronicity. It is intended to be suggestive, not exhaustive, and to stimulate debate rather than to pose as an authoritative guide to the subject. It is in part also a work of literary criticism, since it seemed important, in view of the central role I give to ‘expression’ in literary study, that I should attempt to say at least something about the expressive qualities of those works of Shakespeare that I have chosen to illustrate my argument.


Renaissance Articulations 1.1 LANGUAGE AS LIVING SPEECH

Once we expressed, but now we articulate. Articulating our thoughts seems more precise and more professional than merely expressing them. The language of English Studies resounds with articulations. While older English textbooks and subject boards gave prominence to the concept of expression, one consequence of its eclipse has been the demand from more recent institutions for ‘clearer articulation of aims and learning objectives’ in English. Looking more closely at some of the nuances of ‘expression’ and ‘articulation’ offers the most direct point of entry into the subject, and should help to clarify those aims and objectives, for the term which ‘articulation’ so frequently replaces is intrinsic to the discipline both at its most elementary and its most sophisticated levels. Expression and expressiveness, the language arts, remain at the centre of English, however widely and deeply they may be informed by their cultural contexts. To use a historic formulation, it is clear and effective speech, moving and affective speech, that constitutes the materials of study. For centuries the language arts went by the name of rhetoric, and it is from rhetoric that English emerges as a distinct subject. Rhetoric is the source of the active, compositional and creative, element in the subject, but in the eighteenth century, as educational values shifted, very slowly, towards the vernacular, its remit extended to the more passive business of the interpretation and evaluation of texts. Rhetoric evolved into criticism. Rhetoric textbooks still continued to appear well into the Victorian era, looking increasingly moribund, until they were reinvented and revitalized in the name of ‘self-expression’.1 At first self-expression concerned itself with voice 1 The first citation in the OED for ‘self-expression’ is from 1892, where the concept is associated with Walt Whitman, appropriately enough. From c.1900 onwards the term seems to have been used first in a physical sense (e.g. Emily M. Bishop, Self-Expression and Health (1895); Eustace Hamilton Miles, A Boy’s Control and Self-Expression (1904) ), then of speech and composition (e.g. John Bennett, Self-Expression in English


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and gesture (originally the final part of rhetoric, known as pronuntiatio), then later with creative writing. Criticism and self-expression are rhetoric’s joint legacy to English in the twentieth century and beyond. The present book travels in the direction just outlined, but it will be concerned with Shakespeare’s part in the earlier stages of that development and, immediately, with these two apparently interchangeable terms, ‘expression’ and ‘articulation’. If the corpse of rhetoric continued to be propped up on dusty Victorian bookshelves, in the following century the keynote of Cambridge English was vitality. In the midtwentieth century, when Leavis’s influence was at its most powerful, literary language was held to be expressive in the degree that it was able to communicate ‘felt life’, and in an oddly Romantic twist all literary forms were expected to aspire to the condition of poetry.2 Perhaps the most succinct formulation of this view of literary expression as being intimately connected with life was provided by the title of Isobel Armstrong’s study, Language as Living Form in Nineteenth-Century Poetry, which I have adapted for the present section heading, though paradoxically this was also a book which contributed to the theorydominated criticism of the 1980s and 1990s. (Armstrong’s quotation of Blake’s remark that ‘living form is Gothic’3 has implications that will be explored in Chapter 4.) More recently still, the concept survives in a new era of electronic textuality, as Kathryn Sutherland shows when she argues that in the digital world ‘what is copyrighted to the author is the interest in expression as original and organic form’.4 While these statements about the relationship between expressive language and life have (1931); Elizabeth Avery, Self-Expression in Speech (1933) ), and finally with reference to individual creativity (e.g. Johannes Plokker, Artistic Self-Expression in Mental Disease, trans. Ian Finlay (1964) ). Some of these meanings were conflated in Ernest James Burton, Teaching English through Self-Expression: A Course on Speech, Mime and Drama (1950). 2 See, most recently, Paul Binding, ‘Leavis, Lawrence and the Reverence for Life’, TLS, 11 April 2003, 14–15, and compare F. R. Leavis, ‘James as Critic’ in The Living Principle: English as a Discipline of Thought (London: Chatto and Windus, 1975). A representative example of the point about poetry would be G. D. Klingopulos, ‘The Novel as Dramatic Poem II: Wuthering Heights’, Scrutiny, 14 (1946–7), 269–86, which compares the novel with Macbeth, arguing that it ‘makes the same claim as poetry’. Leavis himself said of Macbeth that ‘it has life and body which are the pervasive manifestation of Shakespeare’s genius in his verse’ (Education and the University: A Sketch for an ‘English School’ (London: Chatto and Windus, 1943), 77. 3 Isobel Armstrong, Language as Living Form in Nineteenth-Century Poetry (Brighton: Harvester, 1982), p. xi. Blake’s piece ‘On Virgil’ was the source of her title. 4 Kathryn Sutherland (ed.), Electronic Text: Investigations in Method and Theory (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 14.

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a common Romantic ancestry, they also have their counterpart in the Renaissance where the association is given a physiological basis. ‘If words be made of breath, | And breath of life, I have no life to breathe’, says Gertrude in Hamlet (3.4.181–2).5 So breath becomes a metonym for speech, as in Bolingbroke’s observation on the power of the royal sentence, ‘such is the breath of kings’, in Richard II (1.3.208) or in Richard’s own claim that ‘The breath of worldly men cannot depose | The deputy elected by the Lord’ (52–3). The streamers that issue from the mouth in medieval and early Renaissance art, the original speech bubbles, provide the visual image with a text message, but as they curl skywards in the air they also represent speech as breath. The painting that Lucrece remembers, where ‘from his [Nestor’s] lips did fly | Thin winding breath which purled up to the sky’ (ll. 1406–7) probably used that device. In these representations language becomes inseparable from the animating principle itself, a point that Roland Barthes extended to rhetoric when he observed that it had ‘an animating function: the “proper” state of language is inert, the secondary state [rhetoric] is “living” . . . the ornaments are on the side of passion, the body; they render speech desirable’.6 This is some distance from Leavis’s moralistic concept of ‘life’, but it is very much part of our map of the subject. If speech is life, it is also uniquely capable of recreating life. This is established in classical rhetoric by the concept of enargeia. The idea that effective expression depends on the speaker’s ability to communicate felt life was forcefully outlined by Quintilian, who used the Greek term to mean ‘vivid illustration, or as some prefer to call it, representation’, which can display the ‘living truth to the eyes of the mind’. The high style of the most eloquent speaker can bring the gods down from heaven and even raise the dead.7 This is a power shared by the dramatist, as Thomas Nashe recorded fourteen hundred years later, after 5 Except where stated all references to Shakespeare are to The Complete Works, eds Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), though I have sometimes preferred the more traditional versions of play titles and character names. 6 Roland Barthes, The Semiotic Challenge, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1994), 84–5. 7 Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, 8. 3. 61–2; 12. 1. 61–2. Translations from Quintilian are based on those of H. E. Butler, 4 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924) and Donald A. Russell, (The Orator’s Education) 5 vols. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2001). Enargeia was often confused in the Renaissance with energia (vigour), by Puttenham for example; see Brian Vickers (ed.), English Renaissance Literary Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999), 224–5.


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watching Talbot resurrected on the English stage in 1 Henry VI.8 Shakespeare himself seems to have self-consciously advertised the dramatist’s power of animation in the moment at the end of The Winter’s Tale when the statue of Hermione moves and speaks. So if it appears unremarkable, even obvious, to point out that the favoured epithet for ‘expression’ in the Renaissance is ‘lively’, it should be understood in the contexts just described. For example: Richard Rainolde describes the related figure of ethopoeia as ‘the lively expression of the maner and affeccion of any thyng’ and Roger Ascham stipulates that ‘naturall wordes, in well joyned sentences do lyvely expresse the matter’; Gabriel Harvey writes about an earthquake which ‘is excellently, and very lively expressed of Ovid’, Sidney claims that quantitative verse is ‘more fit lively to express divers passions’ than rhyme, while Puttenham says that a poet is called ‘a follower or imitator, because he can expresse the true and lively of every thing is set before him’; and in his commentary on Spenser Sir Kenelm Digby explains that Spenser’s archaisms ‘serve to expresse more lively and more concisely what he would say’.9 Renaissance uses of the term ‘expression’ underline the vitality or, we might say, the livingness of speech. But is it appropriate to allow the term ‘speech’ itself to stand for both oral and written forms of expression, as I have just done? Although the debate about the authenticity of speech over writing goes back at least as far as Plato,10 for classical rhetoric this need not be controversial, since Cicero and Quintilian both regarded speech training as the basis of education. In the early modern period, however, the situation is complicated by the arrival of print, which lent greater authority to writing. Most of the observations quoted above refer to written discourse, and the last specifically to a printed text. Nonetheless, as 8 On Nashe’s enthusiasm for Talbot see below pp. 31–2 and Ch. 3, p. 100. Bringing a dead character to life was specifically the business of prosopopoeia. 9 Richard Rainolde, The Foundacion of Rhetorike (London, 1563), 49; Roger Ascham, ‘A Report . . . of the Affairs and State of Germany’, in English Works, ed. William Aldis Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904), 127; Gabriel Harvey, A Pleasant and Pithy Familiar Discourse, of the Earthquake in Spenser’s Prose Works, ed. Rudolph Gottfried (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1949), 454; Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry, ed. Geoffrey Shepherd, rev. R. W. Maslen, 3rd edn. (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2002), 115; George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, ed. Gladys Doidge Willco*ck and Alice Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936; repr. 1970), 3; Kenelm Digby, ‘A Discourse concerning Edmund Spencer’, in R. M. Cummings (ed.), Spenser: The Critical Heritage (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971), 148. 10 See Plato, Phaedrus, esp. 274–9.

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several scholars have emphasized, late sixteenth-century England remained in many ways a deeply oral culture and it is especially important, from our own somewhat remote perspective, that we keep in view the primacy of speech.11 Any account of Shakespeare’s part in the origins of English has to start with this fact about the culture of his own time. Language was conceived in oral terms and in petty school (the elementary level) English was taught on that basis; the child learned to pronounce the words, or voces, then wrote down the letters that signified the sounds. The first book devoted exclusively to English pronunciation, Robert Robinson’s Art of Pronunciation, appeared in 1617.12 Robinson reasserts the vitality of speech at the same time as he describes its evanescence: And though the voice be a more lively kind of speech [than writing], yet in respect it is but onley a sleight accident made of so light a substance as the ayre, it is no sooner uttered but it is dissolved, every simple sound doth expell and extinguish the sound going before it, so that the eare can have but one touch of the ayre beating upon it to declare the speech unto the mind.13

And later he observes that ‘The vitall sound . . . is onely used in composition, with the others of different qualities to expresse them more lively to the eares of the auditors’.14 In fact, Robinson subsumes both oral and written expression under ‘speech’ or ‘voice’, dividing his book into two parts, vox audienda and vox videnda (the audible voice and the visible voice), where the second is ‘writing, or the Characters of Mans voice’.15 For Robinson, then, the term ‘speech’ would clearly be serviceable for both media, and this is also true of the way in which poetry was conceived. In 1600 Philemon Holland translated Plutarch’s well-known essay as ‘How a Yoong Man Ought to Heare Poets’ (my emphasis), and earlier William Webbe had made the point more explicitly when he wrote that ‘the arte of making . . . hath alwaies beene especially used of the best of our English Poets to expresse the very faculty of speaking or wryting Poetically’.16 Poetic expression in the 11 Notably Bruce R. Smith in his outstanding The Acoustic World of Early Modern England (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999). 12 John Hoskyns’s Directions for Speech and Style, written, though not published, in 1599, had given an account of English pronunciation before the section on the penning of letters, but it is unfortunately now lost. 13 14 Robert Robinson, The Art of Pronuntiation (London, 1617), A3v. Ibid. B2r. 15 Ibid. B9r. Hoskyns used the term ‘penned speech’ in Directions for Speech and Style, ed. Hoyt H. Hudson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1935), 13. 16 William Webbe, ‘A Discourse of Englishe Poetrie’ [1586], in G. Gregory Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, 2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1937), i. 230.


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Renaissance is at least as much about sounded language as it is about the words on the page, and even today we still refer to a writer as ‘saying’ something. Robinson’s almost wistful reflections on the transience of spoken words and the vital moment at which the air vibrates on the eardrum lead him to comment on ‘the charactering of the voice’ on the page as a means of prolonging its life. The problem with this, he explains, in a passage which is of obvious relevance to the debate over pirated play-texts, copied from performance, is that all the errors produced in transcription make speech and writing seem like different kinds of language. So the business of translating voice into script to preserve that fleeting moment of audibility becomes fraught with anxieties of loss, which is what prompted Robinson’s book in the first place. His aim was to formulate a universally intelligible system of pronunciation that would enable vocal utterance to be transcribed more accurately. This sense of loss is echoed very pointedly by John King in the preface to the printed version of his lectures which appeared in 1598. There he apologizes for having ‘changed my tongue into a pen, and whereas I spake before with the gesture and countenance of a living man, have now buried myself in a dead letter of less effectual persuasion’.17 While we might notice the paradox here that lectures (like plays) are texts which tend to be written before they are delivered orally, what is striking about this passage is the quite explicit way in which verbal expression is represented as life, breath, vital being—language as living form— and the words on the page as a dead letter.18 The notion of speech as life is best summed up by Erasmus in the Adagia, one of the great compilations of gnomic lore that supplied generations of Tudor schoolchildren, and adult writers, with matter for literary composition. Under the heading ‘Viva vox/The living word’ Erasmus says that this was the term used in old times for anything not written, but taken straight from the mouth of the speaker, lifelike, as it were, and effectual. Often the term ‘living’ 17 John King, Lectures upon Jonas delivered at Yorke (Oxford, 1597), 4, quoted by Keith Thomas in ‘The Meaning of Literacy in Early Modern England’ in Gerd Baumann (ed.), The Written Word, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), 113. There are further striking examples of this common trope in D. F. McKenzie, ‘Speech—Manuscript—Print’, in Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays, ed. Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez, SJ (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), 237–58. 18 Although Milton says in Areopagitica (1644) that a ‘good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit’, the title page describes the work as a ‘speech’.

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is applied to things when they are in their native condition, not artificial, as ‘from the living marble’, and ‘seats cut in the living rock’. Natural things, in fact, have some quality of genuine grace which no artistic imitation can hope to copy.19

All writing, he goes on to say, is merely a copy of living speech because it lacks a physical dimension. He offers an extended physiological metaphor, likening the different parts of rhetoric to the human body, and he claims movement as the principal sign of life. Passing on to education, he quotes various authorities—Cicero, the younger Pliny, Seneca, and St Jerome—to the effect that the voice and presence of the teacher has a far more lasting impact on students than their passive reading of a text; an assertion that would, incidentally, help to justify the extraordinary survival of the lecture in the twenty-first-century university. The phrase viva vox itself survives, in an academic context, in the oral or viva voce examination. All this, and Quintilian’s metaphor especially, brings expression and expressiveness directly back to the human body itself. What is expressed is inward because ex-pressing is a matter of pressing or pushing out whatever is within; this may, of course, be breath. Latin exprimere, from which the English word derives, means just that. Shakespeare uses the word in this sense in Measure for Measure, when Lucio says that Juliana’s ‘plenteous womb | Expresseth his [Claudio’s] full tilth and husbandry’ (1.4.42–3), and Donne likewise, though less biologically, when he laments in ‘A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy’s Day’ that love’s ‘art did express | A quintessence even from nothingness’ (ll. 14–15).20 Language has the same function: John Hewes, for example, observes that ‘speech is the character of man, or the express image of his heart and mind’,21 where the term ‘character’ has shaded from its sense of ‘representation in writing’, as used by Robinson, to the more modern sense of ‘personality’. The most famous version of this is Ben 19 Erasmus, Adages Ii1 to 1v100, trans. Margaret Mann Phillips, annotated R. A. B. Mynors, in Collected Works of Erasmus, xxxi (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), 162. 20 Cf. Donne’s letter to George Gerrard: ‘If I shall at any time take courage by your Letter, to expresse my meditations of that Lady in writing . . . yet I cannot hope for better expressings than I have given of them’, Letters to Severall Persons of Honour (London, 1651), 260. 21 John Hewes, A Perfect Survey of the English Tongue (London, 1624), X4r. For a modern discussion of the relationship between voice and selfhood see Steven Connor’s fascinating Dumbstruck—A Cultural History of Ventriloquism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 7.


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Jonson’s, culled from Vives and recorded in Timber, or Discoveries: ‘Language most shows a man: speak, that I may see thee. It springs out of the most retired and inmost parts of us, and is the image of the parent of it, the mind’.22 This suggests that speech reveals or discloses an inner self, but the emphasis on display (‘shows a man’) seems also to translate speech into writing, Robinson’s ‘visible voice’. If Jonson is indeed thinking as much about written as about oral expression here, it is associated nonetheless with his formulation of discourse as a living body that follows immediately. After stature, figure, and skin, ‘the flesh, blood, and bones come into question. We say it is a fleshy style, when there is much periphrasis . . . There be some styles, again, that have not less blood, but less flesh and corpulence. These are bony and sinewy’.23 Assembling these various conceptions of speech and expression produces a view of language, and therefore of literature, that is very much at odds with the modern erasure of ‘self’ and ‘essence’. For Renaissance writers expression is the means by which inner life (the baby in Shakespeare, Donne’s ‘quintessence’) and inward self (‘heart and mind’) are communicated to the listener. When the listener becomes a reader there is all the more insistence upon the ability of language to remain ‘lively’, in Jonson’s case by resorting to an elaborate physiological metaphor that would transfer the pristine vitality of speech to the lifeless words on the page. To say that Shakespeare’s value lies in the expressive qualities of his language, in the verbal fabric of the plays, is to risk banality. But since a generation of academic writing about Shakespeare has largely been occupied with other matters it seems worth taking the risk. In what is still one of the best books on the language arts in the English Renaissance, Madeleine Doran points out that ‘Above all things, the Renaissance is an age of eloquence. But its verbal eloquence is only part of an intense expressiveness that manifests itself in many ways.’24 The verbal aspect of that expressiveness is the reason for Shakespeare’s preeminence as a writer and also why he remains central to English Studies. Unlike Jonson’s Discoveries, Shakespeare’s commonplace-book, assuming that he kept one, has not survived, so we have less direct access to what he may have thought about questions of expression. Still, 22 Ben Jonson, ed. Ian Donaldson (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 574. 23 Ibid. 575–6. 24 Madeleine Doran, Endeavors of Art: A Study of Form in Elizabethan Drama (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1954), 25.

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the OED gives Shakespeare as the first citation for ‘express’ as meaning ‘to put ones thoughts into words’: ‘it charges me in manners the rather to express myself’, Sebastian says in Twelfth Night (2. 1.12–3), and Shakespeare is also cited for the first instance of ‘expressive’ as meaning ‘open or emphatic in expressing [feelings]’: ‘Use a more spacious ceremony to the noble lords . . . Be more expressive to them’, Parolles advises Bertram in All’s Well (2.1.49–51). The term ‘expressure’, meaning ‘expression by words or signs’ is another Shakespearean coinage, again from Twelfth Night, where Maria describes the letter she will write to deceive Malvolio ‘wherein by . . . the expressure of his eye, forehead, and complexion, he shall find himself most feelingly personated’ (2.3.150–3). Shakespeare not only coined a great number of expressions, but also some expressions about expression, though ‘expression’ in the sense just used (i.e. a word or phrase) is not one of them. According to the OED, it first appears in 1646 in Sir Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica. Even later is the sense of facial or vocal expression, for which the OED gives 1774 for its first citation. Shakespeare’s own expressive capacity was registered by Heminge and Condell in their preface to the First Folio, where they refer to him as ‘a happy imitator of nature, [and] a most gentle expresser of it’. Jonson spoke of his ‘brave notions, and gentle expressions’ in Discoveries. And the Victorian scholar David Masson offered the simple and emphatic judgement that ‘he was the greatest expresser that ever lived’.25 Until some point in the 1970s, when theory emerged from the black lagoon of English Studies, most scholars were happy enough with ‘felt life’, or ‘language as living form’, or something similar, as approximate terms for the expressive qualities of the literature they studied. The moment at which the shadow of doubt passed over the subject came with the appearance of Derrida’s Of Grammatology, translated into English in 1974, which is probably also the source of the modern preference for ‘articulation’ over ‘expression’. The part of the book that deals with articulation is the chapter called ‘Genesis and Structure of the Essay on the Origin of Languages’. Since this is actually a commentary on Rousseau’s commentary on Charles Pinot Duclos’ commentary on the Port-Royal Grammar of 1660, in Rousseau’s Essai sur l’origine des langues, Derrida’s account of articulation, which I take to 25 Shakespeare, Complete Works, ed. Wells and Taylor, p. xlv; Ben Jonson, ed. Donaldson, 539; David Masson, ‘Shakespeare and Goethe’ in Essays Biographical and Critical (London: Macmillan, 1856), 23.


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be a principal agent of the intellectual shift in English Studies at the end of the 1970s, is directly involved in the earlier historical moments of the late eighteenth century (Rousseau) and the late seventeenth century (Port-Royal). The French connection in the historical origins of English as a subject is another issue that I shall discuss more fully (and, I hope, less circuitously) later in this book. Derrida, meanwhile, points to ‘the system of oppositions that controls [Rousseau’s] entire Essay . . . of articulation over accentuation, of consonant over vowel, of northern over southern, of the capital over the province’.26 According to Rousseau, harmonious language was lost at the time of the barbarian invasions of the Roman empire, when harshly consonanted articulation took the place of accent, inflection, passion, the murmurs of the heart—everything, in fact, that we might classify as ‘expression’.27 This is in turn an echo of Duclos, who saw in ancient Greece and Rome a perfect marriage of language and political culture: ‘It is a people in a body that makes a language . . . A people is thus the absolute master of the spoken language, and it is an empire they possess unawares.’28 For Duclos, as for Rousseau, unity and freedom are identified with speech, while ‘writing is the very process of the dispersal of peoples unified as bodies and the beginning of their enslavement’.29 The purpose of Derrida’s critique of Rousseau’s essay is to turn this version of the Babel myth inside out, and his understanding of the term ‘articulation’ is crucial in this respect. Rousseau’s central thesis, he says, is that ‘Our language, even if we are pleased to speak it, has already substituted too many articulations for too many accents, it has lost life and warmth, it is already eaten by writing.’ Derrida’s point, however, is that all language is necessarily dependent upon articulation, ‘difference [differance] within language’. Rousseau complains that ‘articulation is the becoming-writing of language’, but it is really, Derrida says, ‘the becoming-language of language’.30 As a system of making things distinct, articulation is the precondition of language. This position has a number of consequences. The first is, of course, a rejection of the primacy of speech. Others, now quite familiar, are the 26 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 201–2. 27 Ibid. 225; see Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ‘Essay on the Origin of Languages’, in On the Origin of Language, trans. John H. Moran and Alexander Gode (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986), chs. 10 and 11. (I am paraphrasing Rousseau here.) 28 Derrida, Of Grammatology, 169–70. 29 Ibid. 170. 30 Ibid. 226, 225, 229.

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denial of an individualized human self with an inner being which is capable of being expressed through language, and the denial also of any relationship between language and the objective, physical world or ‘life’. In certain senses Derrida’s concept of articulation leads also to the disappearance of expression. It is not just a matter of articulation replacing the language of the heart, as Rousseau would have it, but of its sweeping away one of the core elements of rhetoric itself. Rhetoric presents language as action. The object of expression was to create an impression, out there, on somebody else, and for expression to make an impression the speaker must express something felt within as an emotional truth. As Thomas Wright puts it, in his discussion of rhetoric and the passions in The Passions of the Minde (1601), ‘if we intend to imprint a passion in another it is requisite first it be stamped in our hearts’.31 This is why Queen Elizabeth’s tutor, the educationalist Roger Ascham, writing in The Scholemaster (1570), is so anxious to emphasize the importance of expression, arguing, in his well-known caution, that ‘Ye know not, what hurt ye do to learning, that care not for wordes, but for matter, and so make a devorse betwixt the tong and the hart’.32 And if expression constitutes the persuasive power of rhetoric, it also constitutes the affective power of literature. Its virtual disappearance from the agenda of a great deal of modern academic criticism has necessarily led to the neglect of the affective qualities of literature in English Studies. Such a development would have been unintelligible in the Renaissance, when humanism was absolutely clear about the priority and vitality of speech, on which the power of eloquence and the importance of expression are premised. Jonson even defines grammar as ‘the art of true, and well speaking a Language: the writing is but an Accident’.33 For Renaissance writers the priority of speech and the sympathetic union of heart and tongue create the basis for the immense prestige enjoyed by the language arts, not least in education. So it looks as though we have reached a distinction between an early modern position that views language in highly personalized terms as a mode of self-expression, and a modern or post-modern position that 31 Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Mind in General, ed. William Webster Newbold (New York: Garland, 1986), 212. 32 English Works, ed. William Aldis Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904), 265. 33 Jonson, English Grammar, in Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and P. and E. Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1925–53), viii, 467.


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views language as an utterly impersonal system of difference. However, this convenient antithesis needs to be qualified in ways that will already have become apparent. It is true that many Renaissance writers link the notion of expression to some sort of inner life. But the term ‘self-expression’ was not then in use, and this modern version of expression as the aimless or object-free effusion of inner selfhood would clearly be in conflict with the more directed functions of rhetoric.34 To take a more cynical line, one reason why Renaissance writers are so eager to emphasize the importance of speaking from the heart is that it gives a moral underpinning to the more ambiguous arts of eloquence. While Jonson’s observation tries to elide the persuasive purpose of rhetoric in favour of a robust statement about language as a marker of personal integrity, Thomas Wright’s claim exposes the potential division between these two aspects of expression at the same time as it tries to heal it. The central anxiety about expression in the early modern period, the fault-line in the humanist educational programme, is that the prestige of the language arts may really have been down to their success in teaching people to speak with divorced hearts and tongues.35 Functionless self-expression may be true, but useless, while language with a purpose can never be trusted. This anxiety is at the centre of Hamlet, as we shall see. There is, of course, some difference between what ‘expression’ and ‘articulation’ mean to us now and what they meant to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. But there is also an underlying continuity that will help to clarify certain issues in the origins of English and Shakespeare’s part in that development. ‘Expression’ goes back to the fourteenth century. The OED cites Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale as the first instance of the verb ‘express’ being used in the sense prevalent today, as ‘to rep34 Two excellent studies of selfhood and inwardness in the early modern period are Katharine Eisaman Maus, Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995) and Michael Schoenfeldt, Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), though they do not address the specific concept of self-expression. Richard Rambuss has discussed the ‘daringly experimental expressive project’ of metaphysical poetry, focusing on images of bodily effusion, but it is not clear whether his frequent use of the term ‘expression’ is intended in its physical sense (Closet Devotions (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 1). 35 This view of the matter is represented in Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: Duckworth, 1986). For a rather more positive view see Rebecca W. Bushnell, A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1996).

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resent in language, to put into words’. ‘Articulation’, however, appears at roughly the same time as Shakespeare himself. Here the OED gives Pierre de La Primaudaye’s French Academy for its first citation of ‘articulate’ as a verb meaning ‘to divide (vocal sound) into distinct parts’ and as an adjective in the same sense: ‘The philosophers, diligent searchers out of the reason of all things, saie that speech is made by aire, beaten and framed with articulate and distinct sound’,36 where language is imagined as being fashioned like metal in the hands of a craftsman. Perhaps the earliest form of the word appears, appropriately enough, in an educational context and with reference to the English language itself. Sir Thomas Elyot says in The Governor that women responsible for small children should ‘speak none English but that which is clean, polite, perfectly and articulately pronounced’.37 Significantly, this very early usage carries with it precisely those associations of elocution and social class which have survived to the present day. On the other hand, at the very end of the Renaissance, the anonymous play Marcus Tullius Cicero uses the term in a way which appropriates many of the qualities of expression: Nature writes In our hearts fleshy Tables, therefore did she Articulate the undistinguisht murmurings of his chain’d tongue.38

This admittedly rather opaque passage produces an interesting variant on Thomas Wright’s advice about imprinting passions on the heart. Here the heart seems to make intelligible what the tongue cannot, and it is nature that liberates the (literally) tongue-tied speaker by making distinct his or her unformed thoughts and feelings. The conceit anticipates a post-Renaissance culture of sensibility, but it also participates in the same tradition that represented Shakespeare’s language as the voice of nature. There is no doubt that the terms ‘expression’ and ‘articulation’ overlap in the Renaissance. Both are aspects of eloquence; that is to say, ‘speaking out’ (from e-loquor). But where expression is concerned with pressing out inner life in order to impress, and with the verbal 36 Pierre de La Primaudaye, The French Academie, trans. Thomas Bowes, 2nd edn. (London, 1589), 120. 37 Thomas Elyot, The Book named The Governor, ed. S. E. Lehmberg (London: J. M. Dent, 1962), 18. 38 Anon., The Tragedy of that Famous Roman Oratour Marcus Tullius Cicero (London, 1651), Act 3.


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techniques that would enable that effect to be achieved, articulation remains first a matter of distinct utterance. Both have a physiological basis, but it is articulation that signifies the actual process of vocalization. Articulation operates at the more basic level: ‘no expressing of words, no articulating of syllables’ is how one Renaissance writer distinguishes between them. The earliest appearance in English of the word ‘articulate’ is not, in fact, in La Primaudaye, as the OED records, but in the schoolmaster Richard Mulcaster’s book, The Elementarie (1582). Mulcaster, who was Spenser’s teacher, set out to demonstrate ‘the right writing of our English tongue’ and at the same time promote the virtues of English as both a learned and expressive language. The Elementarie has as good a claim as any to be called the first textbook for English. (Shakespeare was eighteen when it was published.) In order to demonstrate how English should be written Mulcaster constructs a fable in which ‘Sound’ is described as ‘a restrained not banished Tarquinius’.39 By presenting Sound as a tyrant he is certainly not attempting to elevate written over spoken English (he expects ‘writing, whereunder I comprehend both the print & pen [to] fullie expresse the pith of the voice’40), but to show that it should be joined in authority by Reason and Custom. Voice still has priority: ‘As for consent this I have to saie, that it did both beget letters and gave them their forces, at the verie first, to expresse the sound of the articulate voice’.41 This leaves us in no doubt that Mulcaster believes, like all his contemporaries, that speech comes before writing, though it is perhaps less clear as to whether or not he believes that articulation comes before expression. Where the concept of articulation really differs from that of expression is in its double meaning. Although Derrida refers to ‘the double articulation of language: into sounds and into words’, this apparent distinction actually conflates expression and articulation. He barely acknowledges its other, crucial meaning, which is the anatomical one of a system of connection by joints.42 This sense of the word also starts to appear in English around 1600. The Glasgow surgeon Peter Lowe

39 Richard Mulcaster, The First Part of the Elementarie, ed. E. T. Campagnac (Oxford: Clarendon, 1925), 71. 40 41 Ibid. 107 Ibid. 114. 42 See Marjorie Garber, ‘Out of Joint’, in David Hillman and Carla Mazzio (eds.) The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe, (London and New York, Routledge, 1997), 23–51.

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writes in his Art of Chyrurgerie (1597) that ‘All bones are joyned generally two wayes, to wit, by Arethron, that is, by Articulation, and by . . . naturall Union’, while Edward Topsell refers to a ‘Body straight, and articulate’ in The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (1607).43 So what we have in ‘articulation’ is a term that can be used either to mean a distinct utterance, where it operates principally in the field of language, or to mean ‘connected by joints’, where it operates principally in the field of the body. At the same time, the body is itself connected with language, as we saw in Jonson’s anatomy of style. The OED again cites Shakespeare, as it often does, for its first citation of ‘body’ in the sense of ‘the main part of a collection’, the example being Benedick speaking to Don Pedro in Much Ado: ‘The body of your discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and the guards are but slightly basted on neither’ (1.2.268–70), though Mulcaster had also spoken of ‘the hole bodie of learning’, and, a little later, of ‘blemishes’ on that body.44 (The use of the term corpus to refer to a collection of writings or body of literature is not recorded in English until the eighteenth century.) The representation of literary discourse as an articulate structure, a body constructed of joints and members, is, anyway, absolutely pervasive in discussions of composition among Shakespeare’s contemporaries. We have already seen Ascham’s reference to ‘well joyned sentences’, and he also speaks of authors who ‘medle onelie with some one peece and member of eloquence’ and others who ‘perfitelie make up the whole bodie’.45 In a letter to Gabriel Harvey, Spenser writes of ‘the knitting of sentences, whych they call the joynts and members therof’, while Richard Stanyhurst points out in the preface to his translation of Virgil that without the Latin conjunctions ‘many good verses would bee ravelde and dismembred that now cary a good grace among theym, having theyre joynctes knit with theese copulative sinnewes’.46

43 Peter Lowe, A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chyrurgerie, 3rd edn. (London, 1634), 360; Edward Topsell, The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (London, 1607), 231. 44 Mulcaster, Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 252, 260. 45 Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, 283. 46 Edmund Spenser, The Shorter Poems, ed. Richard A. McCabe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999), 28; Richard Stanyhurst, ‘On the Translation of Virgil’, in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, i. 143. For more on this see Smith, ‘Re: Membering’, in Acoustic World, 96–129 and Neil Rhodes, ‘Articulate Networks: The Self, the Book and the World’, in Neil Rhodes and Jonathon Sawday (eds.), The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print, (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 184–96.


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In his Defence of Rhyme Daniel speaks of ‘excellent conceits, whose scattered limbs we are fain to look out and join together’.47 And, at the risk of creating another discourse of slightly basted fragments, I offer one final example. In classical literature rhetoric was often represented by an open hand and logic by a closed fist. The image is not difficult to read, at least as far as rhetoric is concerned, in view of the importance it attached to gesture. But in The Foundacion of Rhetorike (1563), one of the earliest English rhetorics, Richard Rainolde offers an anatomical interpretation: ‘Rhetorike is like to the hand set at large, wherein every part and joint is manifeste.’48 The point about rhetoric, he seems to be saying, is that you can see how it works. Rhetoric and logic constituted two parts of the trivium, the first stage of the academic curriculum in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The third part was grammar, and it is grammar that relates the two meanings of articulation even more effectively than rhetoric, for it operates both as a system of separation and of joining up. Grammar is responsible for dividing language into parts of speech, a process similar to that of anatomical dissection, but it also provides the means by which language can be reconstituted into whole sentences. In this respect Rainolde’s metaphor of the hand would have worked better for grammar than for rhetoric. The parallel functions of grammar and anatomy are everywhere apparent. It is significant that in pictorial representations of Grammatica and Anatomia a common attribute is the scalpel, an instrument of division. In the early modern period we can find Mulcaster saying that grammar ‘serveth in the natur of an anatomie, for the resolving of writen spech’ and Helkiah Crooke describing the human skeleton as ‘a Syntax’, adding that ‘The manner of this Syntax or composition is double, for it is made either by Articulation or by Coalition.’49 But there is also a negative aspect to articulation in that it is usual to practise dissection on dead bodies, and this link between textual analysis and death is implied in humanist attacks on scholastic methods of argumentation. Erasmus observes sarcastically in Praise of Folly that ‘though [St Paul] gives the best description of charity . . . he neither divides nor defines it according to

47 Samuel Daniel, Selected Poetry and ‘A Defense of Rhyme’, ed. Geoffrey G. Hiller and Peter L. Groves (Asheville, NC: Pegasus, 1998), 206. 48 Rainolde, Foundacion, A1v. 49 Mulcaster, Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 55; Helkiah Crooke, Mikrokosmographia (London, 1615), 930.

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the rules of dialectic’,50 where St Paul’s other precept, ‘The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life’ seems to hover in the background. It becomes explicit in the Romantic period, notably in Wordsworth’s lines, ‘Our meddling intellect | Misshapes the beauteous forms of things:— | We murder to dissect’.51 But in the present context it is Charles Lamb’s remark on the fate of Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy that offers the best illustration of the point. He is no longer able to tell whether the speech is any good or not, he complains, because ‘it has been so handled and pawed about by declamatory boys and men, and torn so inhumanly from its living place and principle of continuity in the play, till it is become to me a perfect dead member’.52 Lamb’s description of the dislocated soliloquy as dead utterance traces Romantic notions of organic form back to Renaissance physiological metaphors and the vital relationship between parts and wholes. Ultimately it suggests that if the central question with regard to expression hangs on the issue of truth and deception, in the case of articulation it hangs on the even more fundamental matter of life and death. If that is so, then expression becomes the sign of life in the articulate body.53 What we now have is a series of antitheses that nonetheless operate with some degree of overlap: expression and articulation, oral and written, rhetoric and grammar, all of which draw upon the physiological metaphor to signal vitality or its opposite.54 Broadly speaking, we might think of expression as covering the territory of rhetoric and articulation the territory of grammar, but we don’t have to be scholastically precise about these distinctions. The real point at issue is to

50 Erasmus, Praise of Folly, trans. Betty Radice, ed. A. H. T. Levi (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), 157. 51 William Wordsworth, ‘The Tables Turned’, ll. 26–8. 52 Charles Lamb, ‘On the Tragedies of Shakespeare’, in Jonathan Bate (ed.), The Romantics on Shakespeare, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992), 113. 53 The alternative case for articulation as a vital element in poetry was cogently made, pre Derrida, by Donald Davie in Articulate Energy: An Inquiry into the Syntax of English Poetry (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955). 54 Two opposing accounts of the primacy of speech (humanist and Derridean) can be found in Martin Elsky, Authorizing Words: Speech, Writing, and Print in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1989) and Jonathan Goldberg, Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990), who argues that in Gregory of Nyssa (and Aristotle and Erasmus) ‘the primacy of speech is retrospectively recast as the secondary effect of the rational hand’, (p. 182). I am indebted here to Elsky’s work.


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establish what might be regarded as the underlying features of the discipline that eventually emerged as English. For the moment these would seem to be the primacy of speech, the physiological basis of its manifestations in expression and articulation, and the relation of these to at least two of the three elements in the foundational stage of the early modern curriculum, rhetoric and grammar. And always we come back to speech, voice, sound. Robert Robinson points to ‘the simple and distinct parts, and members of the whole voice’, while Mulcaster says that ‘letters can expresse sounds withall their joynts & properties’.55 Robinson and Mulcaster are not, however, referring here to parts of speech in the grammatical sense, but to syllables or units of sound. Renaissance grammar and rhetoric, working together through articulation, were responsible for creating what we would now call a sound system. And if articulation is responsible for the grammatical wiring of the sound system at the level of syllables and parts of speech, at the level of the sentence, expression (more precisely, rhetoric) gives us the soundbite in the form of quotable ‘sayings’ that could function either as self-contained, gnomic utterances or as prefabricated parts of a larger body of discourse. Almost the first book to be printed in England, Caxton’s The Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres (1477), translated from the French by the Earl Rivers, was a compilation of exactly this kind. So was William Baldwin’s A Treatise of Morall Phylosophie, containing the sayings of the wyse, one of the longestlived books of the English Renaissance, first published in 1547 and reprinted with additions some twenty-four times to 1640. The majority of such volumes were, however, in Latin and designed for educational use, the most celebrated being Erasmus’ Adagia, Apophthegmata, and Parabolae. These elegant anthologies were in turn appropriated and reissued in a more highly processed form by textbook artisans such as Conrad Lycosthenes. They presented the student with the disarticulated corpus of Latin literature in a form that could be conveniently reassembled into new wholes. The commonplace tradition, the literary anthology, and their role in the origins of English Studies will be discussed in Chapter 5. Here, though, they point us to the role of speech in an earlier period of education. The soundbite, or memorable fragment of discourse, was a key element in Renaissance pedagogy, and collections of these commonplaces became a vital aid to teaching in sixteenth-century England, 55

Robinson, Art of Pronuntiation, A8r; Mulcaster, Elementarie, 110.

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as they did throughout Europe. They tell us a great deal about Renaissance techniques of composition and the relationship between parts and wholes, but their status as ‘sayings’ also underlines the oral basis of education. And this is apparent in other, more obvious ways. Boys learned how to speak Latin—were in fact required to speak Latin to each other at playtime, as well as in class. At The King’s School, Canterbury, where Lyly and Marlowe were pupils and where the rule about Latin speaking was in force, the headmaster and his assistant were to ‘endeavour to teach their pupils to speak openly, finely and distinctly, keeping due decorum both with their body and their mouth’.56 At Merchant Taylors’ Richard Mulcaster taught voice projection, encouraging his pupils in the art of ‘lowd speaking’ and explaining in his book Positions (1581) ‘How necessarie, and how proper an exercise it is for a scholler’.57 Erasmus himself devoted a whole work, De Recta Pronuntiatione (1528), to the correct and effective speaking of the classical languages. The last of these takes the form of a dialogue in which two characters, Lion and Bear (Erasmus), discuss education. ‘The quality of its education is the main factor in a country’s progress or decline’, Bear opines, with the convenient result that Lion makes Bear dictator of his Republic of Letters. Bear cites Quintilian to the effect that you have to be able to speak Latin not just by following the rules, ‘but also with the usage of actual daily speech’; and he points out that since poetry is the first thing taught to children to help them with reading and reciting, ‘the poet can be said to “form boys’ mouths” ’.58 The value placed upon good pronunciation extended also to the vernacular. Elyot wanted a small boy’s nurses to speak English ‘articulately’ so that the child’s capacity for good pronunciation in Latin should not be spoiled. But at a later date, the progressive Leicestershire schoolmaster John Brinsley allowed spoken English a more positive function in the classroom itself: cause them to utter every dialogue lively, as if they themselves were the persons which did speake in that dialogue, and so in every other speech, to imagine themselves to have occasion to utter the very same things. 56 See Arthur F. Leach, Educational Charters and Documents 598 to 1909 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), 467. 57 Richard Mulcaster, Positions Concerning the Training Up of Children, ed. William Barker (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), 65. 58 Erasmus, The Right Way of Speaking Latin and Greek: A Dialogue, trans. and annotated Maurice Pope, in Collected Works of Erasmus, xxvi, ed. J. K. Sowards (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), 370–1.


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What they cannot utter well in Latine, cause them first to do it naturally and lively in English . . .59

As well as indicating that the ban on the vernacular was not at all consistently applied, Brinsley’s rubric, with its repeated reference to liveliness, emphasizes again that the object of articulation is animated expression. If the role of the mother tongue here is principally to revitalize the dead language, the lifeline between the two nonetheless has the effect of validating the vernacular. The importance attached to speech skills in education is the reason why drama was encouraged in both schools and universities. Tacit mastery of grammar was insufficient, since humanism tended to regard taciturnity as a dismal inadequacy rather than as a mark of discretion. The end of eloquence was action. Drama offered a means to this end by providing experience in role-playing and by developing self-confidence. Role-playing, in fact, is exactly what Brinsley is describing in his instructions on speech, though this is an aspect of education that had been promoted long before his day. Early sixteenth-century humanist textbooks used Roman comedy to teach Latin as speech, so that knowledge of grammar was acquired from sermo or conversation, as Erasmus (and Quintilian) had recommended. At Eton Nicholas Udall produced his Floures for Latine Spekynge (1553), ‘selected and gathered out of Terence’. Listing conversational phrases in Latin and English, extracted scene by scene from the Andria and other plays, this was a pioneering and practical textbook that stayed in print for half a century. Udall’s Terentian flowers would certainly have been available to Shakespeare, and also to Mulcaster himself, who was a product of Udall’s regime. Part of the point of this tradition, at both school and university, was to develop self-confidence. One of Mulcaster’s own pupils, Sir James Whitelocke, remembers that ‘yeerly he presented sum playes to the court, in whiche his scholers wear only actors, and I on among them, and by that meanes taughte them good behaviour and audacitye’.60 This is amplified by Thomas Heywood, writing about his time at Cambridge in An Apology for Actors (1612), where he argues that academic learning has to be coupled with the capacity for public performance. All the tragedies, comedies, histories, pastorals and 59 John Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, or The Grammar Schoole [1612], ed. E. T. Campagnac (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1917), 212. 60 See Richard L. DeMolen, Richard Mulcaster (c.1531–1611) and Educational Reform in the Renaissance (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1991), 89.

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‘shewes’ that he has seen acted at the university, he says, were ‘held necessary for the emboldening of their junior schollers to arme them with audacity, against they come to bee employed in any publicke exercise . . . [acting] teacheth audacity to the bashfull grammarian’.61 While Heywood, as a professional dramatist, is engaged here in some special pleading on behalf of the public theatre, he is also drawing upon the humanist principle that the language arts provide, in effect, a training for life. Because we are familiar with Puritan broadsides against the iniquities of the professional theatre, and because we have been taught by modern criticism to regard the plays performed there as subversive in a rather different sense, it may come as a surprise to see how deeply rooted drama was in the educational system of Tudor England. Udall’s Ralph Roister Doister (c.1552), often styled the first English comedy, was written for schoolboys, though after he had been dismissed from Eton in scandalous circ*mstances. While in post in the late 1530s he had probably authored the interludes Thersites and Ezekias, both now lost, and the dramatic tradition was continued by a subsequent Eton headmaster, William Malim.62 Christmas plays were performed at Winchester and Westminster, while at Shrewsbury, where Sir Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville were educated, it was laid down that ‘Everie thursdaie the Schollers of the first forme before they goo to plaie, shall for exercise declaime and plaie one acte of a comedie’.63 These are all major schools, but more modest establishments, comparable with Stratford Grammar, also incorporated drama into the curriculum. At Hitchin School in Buckinghamshire, where George Chapman is likely to have studied, the boys performed plays, which may have been in English, written for them by their master Ralph Radcliffe. These included the Chaucerian subjects of patient Griselda and Melibee, ‘The Most Firm Friendship of Titus and Gisippus’, and a play on the



Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors (London: Shakespeare Society, 1841),

62 For listings of school plays see Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim, Annals of English Drama, 975–1700, 3rd edn. (London: Routledge, 1989). On Udall see Charles W. Whitworth (ed.), Three Sixteenth Century Comedies, (London: Ernest Benn, 1984), pp. xxxii–xxxix. Malim defended drama on the grounds that ‘nothing is more conducive to fluency of expression’ (H. Maxwell Lyte, A History of Eton College, 1440–1875 (London, 1875), 157). 63 See B. L. Joseph, Elizabethan Acting (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), 13–14.


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destruction of Sodom.64 In view of Udall’s misdemeanours the last of these strikes a suitably cautionary note. But however moral its intentions, school drama was indeed blasted by Puritans alongside its professional counterpart. As late as 1626 a character called Censure in Jonson’s play The Staple of News grumbles that I would have ne’er a cunning schoolmaster in England. I mean a cunning-man, a schoolmaster; that is a conjuror, or a poet, or that had any acquaintance with a poet. They make all their scholars play-boys! . . . Do we pay our money for this? We send them to learn their grammar, and their Terence, and they learn their play-books. (3, third intermean, ll. 39–44)

Censure’s failure to recognize Terence as a dramatist shows how effectively Udall managed his dismemberment, but the real force of his complaint is to establish just how standard the practice of school drama had become by the early seventeenth century. From hesitant phrases in classroom dialogue to the staged performance of a five-act comedy, drama was present throughout the school system, developing the speech skills of articulation and expression and reinforcing the point that rhetoric was to issue in action. In fact, in the earlier part of Elizabeth’s reign, before 1576, when The Theatre opened in Shoreditch, most of the plays staged in and around London were performed by schoolboys. Generally speaking, choristers played in English and regular schoolboys in Latin, and these were not just academic exercises but commercial ventures, open to the paying public. The activities of Paul’s Boys and the Children of the Chapel are well known, but Merchant Taylors’ was also prominent in the early Elizabethan theatre. During Mulcaster’s headmastership from 1561 to 1586 classical histories such as Timoclea at the Siege of Thebes by Alexander or Perseus and Andromeda and romances such as Ariodante and Genevora were staged in the hall of the Merchant Taylors Company before being transferred to court, as Sir James Whitelock recalled. References in literary histories to Ralph Roister Doister as the first English comedy don’t emphasize the point that the sixteenth-century dramatic tradition was an educational tradition. In addition to Spenser, the dramatists Thomas Kyd and Thomas Lodge both studied under Udall’s pupil Mulcaster. As well as his enormously popular The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd seems likely to have been responsible for the 64 See F. P. Wilson, The English Drama, 1485–1585, ed. G. K. Hunter (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), 153.

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earlier Hamlet, the ‘Ur-Hamlet’, and it was certainly Lodge who reported the ghost’s lugubrious commands to revenge in that play. The boys’ companies disappeared in the late 1580s; when Paul’s Boys reopened in 1600 Mulcaster was in charge of the school, and their reemergence prompted Hamlet to quiz Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on the subject in Shakespeare’s own version of the play. This is not to construct a factitious genealogy from Udall to Mulcaster to Shakespeare, but simply to indicate something of the relationship between educational practice and the professional stage in the Elizabethan period. It is also to point out that the author of the first textbook for English was also the greatest advocate of drama in Elizabethan education. All these aspects of sixteenth-century education, from lively verbal expression to dramatic performance, reflect a more general awareness of the confluence of poetry (literature), rhetoric (oratory), and acting in Renaissance cultural theory. The affinity between poetry and rhetoric was represented in the figure of Orpheus, whose powerful song was said to constitute the origins of civilization. The fable is recounted in Horace’s Art of Poetry, much quoted by Renaissance writers. Puttenham follows up his Horatian account of Orpheus with the claim that poets invented rhetoric, because theirs was the first example of persuasive speech. Sidney points out the close relations between poetry and oratory, in the Apology, and William Webbe describes the ancient performance of verses at feasts known as Panegeryca, commenting that ‘it appeareth both Eloquence and Poetrie to have had their beginning and originall from these exercises, beeing framed in such sweete measure of sentences and pleasant harmonie called Rythmos’.65 Orpheus comes in different versions, and this model, rather different from the one in which the singer is torn to pieces in a Bacchic frenzy, or from the wild, Thracian Orpheus, provided convenient authority for a humanist pedagogy that linked up poetry and rhetoric. The combination was improving, civilizing, and therefore educational. Poetry had also influenced the teaching of rhetoric in antiquity, evident in Quintilian, but at the same time rhetoric was allied to acting, because its last element, pronuntiatio, was concerned with performance skills. In fact, pronuntiatio was divided into two parts, the first dealing with speech or ‘pronunciation’ itself, and the second, actio, dealing with gesture. Quintilian explains: 65 Puttenham, Arte of English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker, 8; Sidney, Apology for Poetry, ed. Shepherd, 115; Webbe in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, i, 231.


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Delivery [pronuntiatio] is often styled action. But the first name is derived from the voice, the second from the gesture. For Cicero in one passage speaks of action as being a form of speech [quasi sermonem], and in another as being a kind of physical eloquence. Nonetheless, he divides action into two elements, which are the same as the elements of delivery, namely, voice and movement.66

The passages in Cicero that Quintilian refers to, then, are concerned with body language. As the term ‘lively’ is used repeatedly of expression in poetry, so it is used of physical expression. (Mulcaster pointed out that Demosthenes’ enemy Aeschines had admitted that he was ‘sorer wounded with the force of his action, which gave life to his words, than with the strength of his words’.67) The similarity of oratory and acting in this respect was acknowledged by Cicero, though perhaps a little reluctantly, when he wrote in De Oratore: ‘how important that [actio] is wholly by itself, the actor’s trivial art and the stage proclaim’.68 In the Renaissance Abraham Fraunce makes the same connection in The Arcadian Rhetorike (1588), while adding that the orator should use ‘action’ (‘or gesture of the whole bodie’) less ‘parasiticallie’ than the professional actor.69 Action in this sense collapses the distinction between expression and articulation entirely. Both terms bear witness to the physiological basis of speech, but here the articulated body is itself a voice, its different parts working in concert to express inward thoughts and feelings. This double voice, of speech and gesture, constitutes the affective power of both rhetoric and drama. The writer who best draws together the main elements in this discussion is Thomas Wright. Wright took from Cicero his point about the importance of an emotion being printed on the heart as a prelude to its expression, and Cicero is indeed his main source throughout the section on ‘How Passions are moved by action’, but he has given it a Christian (specifically Catholic) inflection. He is particularly concerned here with the relation between inward truth and outward gesture in terms that recall Ascham’s fear of a divorce between heart and tongue. 67 Institutio oratoria, 11. 3. 1. Mulcaster, Elementarie, 21. De Oratore, trans. E. W. Sutton and H. Rackham (London: Heinemann, 1942), 1. 5. 18. On Cicero’s views on the relationship between oratory and acting see Bruce R. Smith, Ancient Scripts and Modern Experience on the English Stage, 1500–1700 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 14–25. 69 Abraham Fraunce, The Arcadian Rhetorike, ed. Ethel Seaton (Oxford: Blackwell, 1950), 120. Fraunce uses ‘parasiticallie’ to refer to the Greek parasitos or professional buffoon. 66 68

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Wright’s reminder that ‘through our voices, eyes, and gestures the world will pierce and thoroughly perceive how we are affected’ offers actio as a window on the soul, and it may also help us to understand why Ascham’s interest is not merely in promoting Ciceronian eloquence as a kind of stylistic haute couture. But the key passage, which again cites Cicero, as Quintilian had done, is this: For action is either a certain visible eloquence, or an eloquence of the body, or a comely grace in delivering conceits, or an external image of an internal mind, or a shadow of affections, or three springs which flow from one fountain, called vox, vultus, vita, ‘voice, countenance, life’ . . .70

If the best poetry presents language as living form, ‘action’ presents living form as language, and one that provides direct access to the inner self. The passage manages to embrace articulation and expression, speech and the body, in a profoundly optimistic statement about the transparency of human communication. It also makes a statement about the uniquely expressive capacities of drama.71 As William Webbe had pointed out fifteen years earlier, the difference between poetry for the stage and poetry for the library is that ‘those on stages have speciall respect to the motions of the minde’.72 Finally, the passage points us in the direction that English Studies would eventually take. In its concern with rhetoric, emotion, and inner life, Wright’s book, which is contemporary with Hamlet, can be seen as a conduit between the teachings of Cicero and Quintilian in antiquity and the transformation of rhetoric in the eighteenth century and beyond; in particular, through the engagement of the new rhetoric with passion psychology and through later concepts of ‘self-expression’. And so can Hamlet itself.


Media Studies is viewed with some disdain, especially in the older seats of learning, and this view has become a journalistic stereotype. This is 70 Wright, Passions of the Mind, ed. Newbold, 212–13. On passion psychology and the language of the body see Jane Donawerth, Shakespeare and the Sixteenth-Century Study of Language (Urbana, Ill.,: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 56–105. 71 Pauline Kiernan has argued that the role of the human body and the power of performance are central to Shakespeare’s understanding of the dramatic medium (see Shakespeare’s Theory of Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) ). 72 Webbe in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, i, 300.


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partly because Media Studies focuses on contemporary popular culture but also because of the perceived superiority of the book over the screen, since ‘media’ in this context is usually understood to mean ‘television’. Watching TV has long assumed the role that novel-reading did in the early nineteenth century, carrying the stigma of indolence or self-indulgence, while in some quarters reading a book now seems to be almost as arduous an activity as writing was in the bone-chilling abbeys of the eleventh century. There is no doubt that the book and the screen are in competition with each other, and that people read less because they watch more, but this is not a reason for ignoring the fact that our experience is mediated through different technological forms. Nor should we use the contemporary bias of modern Media Studies to obscure the fact that the term ‘technology’ can be understood in a variety of ways and that Media Studies has a long history. My subject in this chapter so far has been the vitality of speech. But we could also say that, in another sense, the chapter has been concerned with the media, the first and most fundamental of which is speech. Articulation and expression, the relationship between the oral and the written, the dimension of drama, and the human body as an instrument of communication are all aspects of Media Studies. Rhetoric is Media Studies. There is no reason to suppose that Media Studies is in some way inseparable from the birth of the moving image, though it is, surely, inseparable from English, if we clear away some of the prejudices attaching to this disparaged academic label. Shakespeare was profoundly interested in the subject, not least in the play that the Cambridge professor of rhetoric Gabriel Harvey thought would ‘please the wiser sort’: Hamlet.73 No other play of this period is more obviously concerned with the business of articulation, in its double sense of vocalization and structure, or with expression, the process by which inner life becomes public utterance. And it is also concerned with the media of expression, the different forms which the representation of that inner life might take. At the same time this is also the play whose early printed texts appear in the most intriguingly distinct states. So the questions that the play raises in thematic terms, those questions that constitute our experience of Hamlet in whatever version or state we receive it, are compounded by the fact that they are reproduced externally in our evaluation of the different records left to us of the play 73 See Virginia F. Stern, Gabriel Harvey: His Life, Marginalia and Library (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979), 127.

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itself. And the issue is complicated by a third factor that erases the distinction between ‘the play itself’ and the forms in which it has been preserved. This is the haunting presence of a number of other plays. Hamlet is shaped by its author’s response to the old play, the so-called Ur-Hamlet, which certainly did exist, and also by the plays which appear within the text and which probably never existed in any independent capacity outside it. There are many things that make Hamlet unique, but it is this combination of factors that makes the play supremely interesting for an account of Shakespeare’s role in the origins of English. The great strength of Tudor education lay in its integration of the language arts in a programme that combined poetry, oratory, and (in a modest way) drama. Here indeed was a synthesis with clearly defined aims and objectives. We must imagine Hamlet, Shakespeare’s only university student, as a product of this system rather than as the pupil of an early medieval Danish court tutor. But whatever he was doing at university, which might include Media Studies, if we are relaxed with our terminology, it seems to have provoked considerable anxiety about external forms of representation and their ability to communicate what he understands as inward truth. This leads to a mistrust of the language arts in general and to a suspicion that rhetoric, drama, and the painted words of poetry have been disconnected from ‘felt life’. Although we can only infer the style of the lost Hamlet (stiff-jointed Senecan maxims and a bloodbath catastrophe), it seems fairly clear that in his Hamlet Shakespeare set out to deconstruct a genre. In doing so he brought into question almost every aspect of his own dramatic art. Thomas Nashe is the main source of information about the Ur-Hamlet, which he mocks, but he also wrote with wide-eyed, uncomplicated enthusiasm about the power of this new medium, the public theatre, to immortalize the valiant dead. It is another instance of the dramatist’s power of resurrection and animation mentioned at the start of this chapter. Speaking of Talbot in I Henry VI, Nashe celebrates an audience ‘of ten thousand spectators at least (at severall times), who, in the Tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding’, adding that ‘I will defend it against any Collian, or clubfisted Usurer of them all, there is no immortalitie can be given a man on earth like unto Playes’.74 74 Pierce Penilesse, in The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. R. B. McKerrow, rev. F. P. Wilson, 5 vols. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1958), i. 212. Interestingly, in the context of Hamlet, Nashe goes on to say that it is the function of drama to expose ‘all coosonages, all cunning drifts over-guylded with outward holinesse’ (ibid. 213).


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Nashe is perfectly clear that the purpose of playing, as Hamlet would call it, is to stimulate virtue through the conjuring up of live presence on the stage: theatrical enargeia. Yet less than ten years later the (re-) creator of Talbot produced a character who fails to act on the words of the valiant dead, deliberately ignores the conventions of the revenge play in which he is supposed to be performing, and instead gives elocution lessons and drama tutorials. An extraordinary proportion of the first three acts of this tragedy is occupied with passages from other plays and Hamlet’s deliberations over matters of articulation and expression: the Troy play, he lays down, is ‘well-digested in the scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning’ (2.2.435); he notes the striking turn of phrase (‘mobbled queen’); and later, for ‘The Murder of Gonzago’, he instructs the Players on delivery: ‘Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you—trippingly on the tongue’ (3.2.1–2). In a move which veers between inspiration and decadence, Shakespeare has turned his hero into a critic, and a critic consumed with doubts about the relationship between rhetoric (in its broadest sense) and real life. Hamlet represents the first crisis in English Studies. Although the subject had not yet been invented, the crisis, as Derrida might have said, was always already inscribed within it. So it is entirely appropriate that this play should be concerned with the original and apparently most authentic medium of communication—speech. Back to basics, as Derrida would not have said. The ghost of Hamlet’s father, however, is a rather dubious example of the vitality of oral expression, since he is already dead, which means he can only speak when spoken to.75 The first act begins and ends with urgent requests to the ghost to ‘speak’, Horatio at one point repeating the demand five times in twelve lines (1.1.130-42). When Hamlet himself renews the demand in Act 1, Scene 5 the ghost responds with his own injunctions. These scenes constitute an exchange of imperatives or, in the terms of speech-act theory, an exchange of performative utterances: speak/revenge/remember.76 Hamlet’s father may be dead, but he can still do things with words. The last in this series of commands is 75 Harold Jenkins explains that this is why it is as well that the person addressing a ghost should be someone of ‘superior learning’, a ‘scholar’, as Marcellus suggests (Hamlet, ed. Jenkins (London and New York: Methuen, 1982), 424–5). 76 Speech-act theory seems not to have made much impact on literary criticism, presumably because Austin excluded literature (and drama) from his frame of reference, but see most recently Peter Robinson, Poetry, Poets, Readers: Making Things Happen (Oxford: Clarendon, 2002), esp. pp. 109–61.

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Hamlet’s insistence that the group of witnesses swears never to speak of what they have seen. The end of the sequence, then, and consumingly so in the case of Hamlet himself, is a vow to bottle it all up. He has already concluded his first soliloquy with the self-denying ordinance, ‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue’; in the Hecuba soliloquy, after he has seen the ghost, the frustration he voices in response to the Player’s speeches is that he ‘can say nothing’. While the key utterances in the scenes with the ghost are themselves performative, in Austin’s classification, not only do they lead to nothing being performed, except plays, but they also have the effect of sealing up further kinds of utterance. Everything is driven inwards. To switch from 1950s to 1590s speech theory, La Primaudaye offers this observation on inward speech: In the writings of the learned we finde mention made of a double speech or reason: the one internall, or of the minde, called the divine guide: the other uttered in speech, which is the messenger of the conceits and thoughts of man. The end of the first is friendship towards a mans selfe . . . The end of the other reason or uttered speech, is friendship towards others . . . .77

This double voice, conceived as a separation between speech as truthtelling and speech as performance, is an obvious feature of Hamlet. The normal routes and currents of conversation are short-circuited. It is a theme that even edges towards parody in Polonius’ advice to Laertes: ‘Give thy thoughts no tongue, | Nor any unproportioned thought his act’ (1.3.59–60). The first crisis in English Studies was not about ‘theory’, but about rhetoric. Though in so far as we can loosely align rhetoric with expression and grammar with articulation—or oppose speech-act theory to Derridean grammatology—the more recent crises were too. Hamlet’s meeting with his father’s ghost hardens the sense of disconnection from his immediate environment which has already been evident from the first words we hear him speak to his mother: ‘Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems’’ ’ (1.2.76). His mistrust of all external forms of expression, from dress to dramatic verse, feeds on the supernatural encounter to produce further withdrawal, new strategies of evasion. Hamlet’s refusal to cooperate deconstructs not only the genre of the revenge play but, more fundamentally, the humanist educational programme which aimed to integrate poetry, rhetoric, and 77

La Primaudaye, French Academie, trans. Bowes, 119–20.


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drama and which directed the language arts towards performance and action. The disintegration is apparent everywhere in the play. Indeed, it is even described, quite literally, as a disarticulation, when Hamlet complains that ‘The time is out of joint’. But the word that best captures what it is that he has lost is ‘frame’. In fact, ‘frame’ is really the native English version of ‘articulation’. It can be used to mean ‘distinct utterance’, as we have seen in the remarks of Pierre de La Primaudaye (or rather his translator) quoted earlier in the chapter, and the same sense appears in Edmund Coote’s The English Schoole-maister in the phrase ‘the framing and sweete tuning of thy voyce’.78 In Hamlet itself it tends to carry the other meaning of ‘structure’, as in Hamlet’s reference to ‘this goodly frame, the earth’, which now seems to him to have dissipated into pestilent vapours. It is explicitly linked to the anatomical sense of articulation in Claudius’ description of the kingdom’s being ‘disjoint and out of frame’ (1.2.20) after old Hamlet’s death. But it is also used of language, as when Guildenstern reproachfully urges Hamlet to ‘put your discourse into some frame’ (3.2.295–6). A year or so before Shakespeare’s play was first acted John Hoskyns wrote in his Directions for Speech and Style (a book title that Hamlet himself might have wanted to borrow): ‘Yet cannot his mind be thought in tune whose words do jar, nor his reason in frame whose sentences are preposterous; nor his fancy clear and perfect whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties.’79 The sentiment is echoed in Ophelia’s lament after the nunnery scene for ‘that noble and most sovereign reason | Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and harsh’ (3.1.160–1). But Ophelia both tracks and overtakes Hamlet, and her own descent into madness is reflected in the verbal disintegration described in detail by Horatio, who points out that although ‘Her speech is nothing, | Yet the unshaped use of it doth move | The hearers to collection’ (4.5.7–9). Her reason lost, Ophelia’s speech has become inarticulate, but, crucially, it remains expressive. The distinction is important not because Shakespeare wants to show that authentic speech can only be achieved in madness, but because it suggests that the power to move need not depend on the structural devices of framing. This reaches its logical conclusion in the aporias of King Lear, which is why the last speech in that play carries the Hamlet-like injunction, ‘Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say’. 78 79

Edmund Coote, The English Schoole-maister (London, 1596), A4r. Hoskyns, Directions for Speech and Style, ed. Hudson, 2.

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Ophelia’s (and Lear’s) is the extreme condition towards which Hamlet is tending but which he does not reach. His retreat from articulate public utterance, from external to internal speech—private expression—is part of an all-consuming self-protectiveness that for most of the play exhausts the possibility of other action. But is all this a disgusted reaction to ‘seeming’? Hamlet’s first words to his mother are not, to be precise, about seeming, as I said a moment ago, but about commonness. The two subjects might even be seen as opposites, since the first is a courtly vice, to do with the construction of a cosmetic self, while the second is what it is: just common. ‘Ay, madam, it is common’, Hamlet replies, and may well pause before contemptuously spitting out the final word. But both seeming and commonness are, at least in Hamlet’s eyes, the means of falsification. Commonness falsifies what is special, private, too deep for utterance, by reducing it to the commonplace. Besides, the notion of vulgar ostentation shows how easily these two apparent opposites may be conflated. Claudius’ slickly ceremonious speech in Act 1, Scene 2. has something of this quality, especially in the unctuous professions to Laertes. What he professes to Hamlet, when he turns his attention to him, is a faith in the commonplace, claiming that his failure to grasp a simple platitude shows An understanding simple and unschooled; For what we know must be, and is as common As any the most vulgar thing to sense . . . (1.2.97–9)

There is an underlying sarcasm here, reinforced by the reference to the death of fathers as nature’s ‘common theme’. Claudius implies that his overeducated stepson has failed to take in the more elementary school exercises. In the next scene both Laertes and Ophelia are subjected to a bullet-point memorandum of stale precepts from their father, including the one that Hamlet himself wants so desperately to live up to: ‘above all—to thine own self be true’ (1.3.78), which Polonius manages to empty of any significance. So it is not surprising, in the face of all this parental devotion to cliché, that Hamlet should be determined to eradicate the commonplace from his mind in order to accommodate his true father: from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there . . . (1.5.98–101)


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But the frustrating part of this is that truisms are also true. The unspoken commonplace that Hamlet himself lives out is curae leves loquuntur, ingentes stupet: ‘great griefs are silent, petty sorrow speaks’.80 Commonness and seeming, or, to put it another way, vulgarization and misrepresentation, are the charges constantly levelled at the modern media. In view of his distaste for public display, Hamlet would surely have been another critic of the media, as indeed he is. That distaste colours his response to the most powerful medium in his own culture, which is, of course, the theatre. After being cast in what seems to have been an exceptionally crude representation of his story, this Hamlet has every right to be discriminating. The first audiences of Shakespeare’s Hamlet would have found their expectations fulfilled, briefly. The play does indeed begin with a sighting of the ghost who had, in the old play, memorably issued the command, ‘Hamlet, revenge’. But the satisfying sense of familiarity would have evaporated very quickly. Instead of those reassuring Senecan soundbites, such as ‘Blood is a beggar’, which Nashe records as a feature of the earlier Hamlet, there is an assault on the commonplace. Instead of a proactive avenger, there is an inactive avenger. And as well as presenting us with a quite new style of introspection on the part of the hero, the proportion of the first three acts devoted to an exhibition and discussion of the dramatic arts might suggest a comparable degree of self-scrutiny on the part of the author himself. This play comes with a built-in critique of the medium in which it is presented. The fact that this does not seem obtrusive, or extraneous, demonstrates the success with which Shakespeare has managed to engage questions of expression and performance in the theatre with questions of expression and performance in life itself. Shakespeare’s play responds to the earlier dramatization of the Hamlet story, but it can also be measured against the two plays embedded within it, the Troy play and ‘The Murder of Gonzago’. The play about the fall of Troy, which Hamlet selects for the Players to show their quality, as he puts it, appeals to him because it did not appeal to the general public. ‘Caviare to the general’, it rises above commonness. Its style is distinctive, but quite hard to identify, as many scholars have found. Early commentators described it as good tragedy written on the ancient rules (Warburton), admired its ‘superb lyric vehemence and epic pomp’ (Coleridge), and pointed out that it has to appear more 80

See Ch. 5, p. 159.

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elevated than the play itself (Schlegel); though one, rather absurdly, argued that Hamlet’s approval of it was consistent with his feigned madness (Steevens).81 Modern scholars have thought it might be an imitation of Lucan (Emrys Jones) or of Ben Jonson (Roy Battenhouse), both of which are plausible suggestions.82 Coleridge’s description of the Troy play happens also to match Lucan’s style quite precisely, while in the case of Jonson it is worth remembering that as early as 1598 Francis Meres placed him among the ‘best for Tragedie’, though the plays have not survived.83 The style of these passages is certainly stately, with strong midline breaks acting as the blank-verse equivalent of caesuras, slowing the pace of the lines. Pictorially, the emphasis is on boldly contrasting colours (black, red, and the ‘milky’ white of Priam’s head) idealized by the heraldic terms ‘sable’ and ‘gules’. The episode itself is divided into three movements: a description of the ferocious Pyrrhus, Pyrrhus’ killing of Priam, and Hecuba’s discovery of her husband’s body. The second of these, largely omitted in Q1, is particularly interesting, because it presents a moment in which the scene is suddenly frozen: So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood, And, like a neutral to his will and matter, Did nothing. (2.2.460–2)

Here, at the still centre of the scene, lies the appeal of it to Hamlet. It is a neoclassical tableau, the warrior poised in vengeful attitude, but motionless, briefly exempted from having to do the deed. Hamlet is interested in performance as well as in verbal style, as we see in the preparations for ‘The Murder of Gonzago’, and the question of performance is fundamental because it lies at the heart of his dilemma. That dilemma can be located in the ambivalence of the words ‘act’ and ‘action’, terms which have applications in both drama and rhetoric. From the start Hamlet is determined to separate his inward self, ‘that within which passes show’, from all the externals, ‘those actions that a man might play’, as he tells his mother. At the same time 81 See A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: Hamlet, ed. Horace Howard Furness, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott, 1877), i. 180–6. 82 See Emrys Jones, The Origins of Shakespeare (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), 273–7; Roy Battenhouse, ‘The Significance of Hamlet’s Advice to the Players’, in Elmer M. Blistein (ed.), The Drama of the Renaissance: Essays for Leicester Bradner, (Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 1970), 3–26. 83 Francis Meres, ‘Palladis Tamia’, in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, ii. 319.


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he is quite prepared to use theatrical terminology to describe the situation he faces in his own life and the pressure which that places upon him to ‘act’. He speaks of his father’s murder as a ‘cue for passion’, for example, and says that he is ‘prompted to [his] revenge by heaven and hell’. But the feeling that what the revenge code requires him to do is, in the end, only a theatrical gesture is what inhibits him from acting in any sense of the word. With the Ur-Hamlet as a point of departure, Shakespeare uses the Troy play and ‘The Murder of Gonzago’ to extend his critique of drama as action movie (the revenge-play genre) to its logical conclusion.84 What this means is that Thomas Wright’s ideal of actio as an integrated language of speech and gesture that can provide direct access to the inner self completely falls apart in Hamlet. Any external form of expression becomes a demonstration of hypocrisy, and instead we have soliloquy, or what La Primaudaye would call internal speech. Internal speech allows Hamlet to nurse his integrity and is a mode of self-expression which can be set against rhetoric as well as drama. It is anti-rhetorical because it is without practical effect. Quintilian, the principal classical authority on rhetoric, divided the arts into the theoretical and the practical, the second being concerned with action: this is their end, which is realized in action, so that, the action once performed, nothing remains to do . . . In view of these facts we must come to the conclusion that, in the main, rhetoric is concerned with action, for in action it accomplishes that which it is its duty to do.85

Hamlet’s interiority makes him a bad humanist. Turning away from eloquence as action, he turns his back on the principal aim of the Tudor education system. Quintilian’s words may weigh heavily upon Hamlet, for his presence is certainly detectable elsewhere in the play. His account of the Troy play’s having ‘no sallets in the lines to make the matter savoury’ sounds rather like Quintilian’s remarks on the salt (sales) of wit.86 But the most striking echo is in the Hecuba soliloquy, where Hamlet works up his anger over the difference between the emotions fabricated by actors for the theatre and those produced by intense personal experience. The 84 Though it might be said that the logical conclusion was reached in the Hamlet parody in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero (1993). 85 Institutio oratoria, 2. 18. 1–4. Quintilian goes on to qualify this in ways that are also highly relevant to Hamlet, acknowledging that rhetoric may sometimes be content with theory; that there is rhetoric in silence; and that there is reward in private study. 86 Ibid. 6. 3. 19.

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speech draws upon a passage in Quintilian which is designed to show the superiority of oratory to acting: I have often seen actors, both in tragedy and comedy, leave the theatre still drowned in tears after concluding the performance of some moving role. But if the mere delivery of words written by another has the power to set our souls on fire with fictitious emotions, what will the orator do whose duty it is to picture to himself the facts and who has it in his power to feel the same emotion as his client whose interests are at stake?87

Quintilian wants to distinguish between the actor’s mimicry of emotion and the orator’s more profound ability to reproduce within himself the emotions experienced by the person on whose behalf he is speaking. And although Hamlet’s anger is directed against any kind of simulation, it is not completely inappropriate for him to allude to the principal classical authority on rhetoric at this point. As an individual Hamlet is determined to distance himself from the media. As a critic, however, he has views on speech and style, and these are really quite conventional: ‘Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance: that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature’ (3.2.17–19), he instructs the Players, following Quintilian again. Hamlet is repeating a standard prescription for theatrical decorum, echoed, for example, by Thomas Heywood in his Apology for Actors, where he explains that rhetoric ‘instructs him to fit his phrases to his action, and his action to his phrase, and his pronuntiation to them both’.88 Modern debate about Elizabethan acting techniques has not yielded many firm conclusions, but it must surely have been the case that a more naturalistic style of acting developed as the plays themselves became more dramatically sophisticated.89 More naturalistic in this context means less dependent upon rhetorical prescriptions for delivery, which would certainly have determined the performance of academic drama. Heywood’s remarks follow immediately from his discussion of drama at Cambridge. If the poetic style of the inserted plays 87 Ibid. 6. 2. 35. The passage is also cited by Montaigne in the essay ‘On Diversion’ (III, 4). (See Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays, trans. and ed. M. A. Screech (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane 1987), 944.) 88 Heywood, Apology for Actors, 29. 89 For a concise survey of the subject see Peter Thomson, ‘Rogues and Rhetoricians: Acting Styles in Early English Drama’ in John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (eds.), A New History of Early English Drama, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 321–35. The discussion by Christy Desmet of the role of rhetoric in the construction of character is also relevant here (see Reading Shakespeare’s Characters: Rhetoric, Ethics, and Identity (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992), esp. pp. 10–34).


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in Hamlet has to be more elevated in order to mark out their theatricality from the style of the play in which they appear, so too does their performance.90 Hamlet’s directions demand a neoclassical restraint in gesture and academic manner, anchored in oratory, which indicates several degrees of remoteness from real life. His donnish tastes are entirely consistent with a mistrust of the media in general, but they also allow Shakespeare to showcase the dazzlingly inventive naturalism of his own drama. In its intricate negotiations with other plays—and its obsessive search for authenticity—Hamlet is surely Shakespeare’s most selfconscious engagement with the theatrical medium in which he worked; an attempt, as it were, to scrub clean the dyer’s hand. But at the same time the different states in which the play has come down to us open up some fascinating perspectives on the nature of the medium itself. While there is still no consensus as to the provenance of Q1, the first printed text of Hamlet, it has at least shaken off some of the stigma of the label ‘bad quarto’ and come into its own as a version with a distinctively oral character, by contrast with the more deliberately ‘written’ versions of Q2 and the Folio.91 Q1 is shorter, rougher-edged, more colloquial, more performative, and more improvized than the later texts. The Troy play that Hamlet so admired was too refined for comic adulteration, and each of the three texts has him warn against comic improvization in ‘The Murder of Gonzago’, but only in Q1 does he refer to the clown with such a limited repertoire that the ‘gentlemen quote his jests down in their tables before they come to the play’.92 The essential difference between Q1 and the two other early versions of Hamlet is that it is a performance text rather than a reading text. That is one reason why it omits so many of those complicating reflections on expression, utterance, and representation which are prominent in Q2 and F and which largely define the individuality both of Hamlet the character and the play as a whole. We do not hear Claudius’ remarks on the commonplace and Hamlet’s inadequate education in Act 1, Scene 2 nor his knowing observation that ‘not th’ exterior nor the 90 See Kiernan, Shakespeare’s Theory of Drama, 121–6, though my own conclusion is slightly different from hers. 91 See Leah S. Marcus, Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), 132–76. On the ‘bad’ quartos see Laurie E. Maguire, Shakespearean Suspect Texts: The ‘Bad’ Quartos and their Contexts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). 92 The First Quarto of Hamlet, ed. Kathleen O. Irace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 9.23.

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inward man | Resembles that it was’ (2.2.6–7). ‘To be or not to be’ comes before, not after, the scene with the Players and the Hecuba soliloquy; the speeches from the Troy play and ‘The Murder of Gonzago’ are both truncated and the account of Pyrrhus’ hesitation disappears, as we noticed earlier. We do not get the text of Hamlet’s letter to Horatio in Act 4, Scene 6, nor his parody of Osric in Act 5, Scene 2 (‘his definement suffers no perdition in you . . .’), though the latter is also omitted in F. Perhaps most significantly, Hamlet does not tell the Players in Act 3, Scene 2, ‘let your own discretion be your tutor’ and ‘Suit the action to the word’, nor does he comment on ‘the purpose of playing’. Q1 is said to be effective on stage, but it is not constructed in such a way as to invite the audience to reflect upon its own status as a dramatic text. As a literary composition it is not particularly selfconscious. Q2 and F, on the other hand, are texts for the silent reader, like Hamlet himself, separated from the world of doing and performing, inwardly digesting, pondering the discrepancies between all forms of expression and the inarticulate truth within. John Lee has argued that we can see the Folio Prince as a revision of the Quarto Prince, since many of the revisions ‘are seen to aim to create a greater degree of self-constituting interiority’.93 Extending the metaphor, we might also see the Prince as anxious to proceed from Quarto to Folio, desperate not to be sent back to the Ur-Hamlet, but with a secret desire to be transferred to the Troy play. In the event of this last scenario, however, we would have no access to what Donne described, with beautifully compressed simplicity, as ‘A naked thinking heart, that makes no show’.94 Donne’s words, with their hint of the autopsy, point to an aspect of Hamlet which is quite literally introspective, and this new style of introspection is set in contrast to the performative. What the different states of the play reveal to us is a process of internalization, the transition from an oral to a literate culture, reflected in the characterization of Hamlet himself. Keith Thomas points out that with the advance of literacy ‘We also see the emergence, or rather the greater prevalence, of two distinct psychological types: the silent reader, “lost in a book”, antisocial and oblivious to his surroundings . . . and the private diarist, entrusting his secret thoughts to papers which were intimately his’.95 Hamlet is a composite of these two 93 John Lee, Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and the Controversies of Self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 2 (see also 228–39). 94 John Donne, ‘The Blossom’, l. 27. 95 Thomas, ‘Meaning of Literacy’, in Banmann (ed.), The Written Word, 116.


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types. The image of Hamlet as a silent reader is presented explicitly in Q1 where, immediately before ‘To be or not to be . . .’, the King says ‘See where he comes poring upon a book’. In all versions of the text Ophelia is also given a book to read by her father—to ‘colour | Your loneliness’, Polonius says in the Folio—so in many, if not most, early performances of Hamlet the scene of this most famous soliloquy shows a true silent reader being observed by a pretend silent reader. The speech itself begins with reflections on ‘being’ and winds round to end with ‘action’, though only to confess that the result of too much thinking is that great enterprises ‘lose the name of action’. The antithesis of being and action in Hamlet is as close to the heart of the mystery as we are likely to get, and it is also, rather interestingly in the present context, an aspect of the divide between orality and literacy. According to E. A. Havelock , the use of the copula ‘to be’ is the hallmark of a new philosophical Greek prose which replaces the old oral poetry with its reliance on verbs of action and ‘doing’.96 The silent reader exchanges the sphere of doing for the sphere of being. From Hamlet’s point of view the fact that the Troy play ‘was never acted, or, if it was, not above once’ is a point in its favour. Poetry for the library is preferable, on balance, to poetry for the stage. But this is presumably not Shakespeare’s view. Having said that, the problem with putting some distance between author and character in this particular play is that the special intimacy which readers (and audience) have experienced with Hamlet seems inevitably grounded in a similar intimacy between the author and his creation. In simple terms, if each of us ‘is’ Hamlet, how can Shakespeare not be? More precisely, can we accept a Hamlet whose opinions are implicitly criticized by the author, but whose feelings are shared by both author and readers to a degree that has traditionally been regarded as unparalleled?97 The reason why it is possible to answer ‘yes’ to these questions lies in the subject already discussed: commonness. Hamlet’s sense of his own distinctiveness, and his rejection of commonness, almost compels sympathetic identification from the reader. Few people would describe themselves 96 See E. A. Havelock, The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1986), 98–116. 97 These and related questions have been rigorously analysed by Robert Weimann in Helen Higbee and William West (eds.), Author’s Pen and Actor’s Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare’s Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), esp. pp. 131–79, in ways that intersect usefully with Kiernan, Shakespeare’s Theory of Drama.

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as ‘common’, and fewer still ‘vulgar’, however strong their democratic instincts, since to deny one’s own uniqueness is tantamount to a denial of selfhood altogether. In Hamlet, however, this sense of personal distinctiveness is accompanied by a taste for refinement that affects his judgement both of the theatre and of the media in general. This is why he would prefer the Troy play to a play performed on the ‘common stages’ by the ‘common players’, as he calls them. It is also why his line on speech might have come straight out of the courtesy books. For Thomas Hoby, translating Castiglione’s Courtier into an English gentleman, the greater permanence of writing over speech means that we should ‘make it more trimme and better corrected . . . that speech is most beautifull, that is like unto beautifull wrytings’.98 And Richard Brathwait, constructing a native English gentleman, notes that ‘though discretion of Speech be more than Eloquence, these preferre a little unseasoned Eloquence before the best temper of discretion’.99 Shakespeare’s attitude to the oral world, and to the character he created in Hamlet, can be gauged at least in part by the fact that Hamlet’s antic disposition allows him to indulge in exactly the kind of commonness and clownishness that he affects to disdain. Hamlet’s own attitude, on the other hand, suggests a desire for refinement somewhat in advance of his time, like Richard II’s premature introduction of that fastidious item of domestic linen, the handkerchief. What Hamlet longs for, unknowingly, is the eighteenth century—an age of greater sensibility, with a new rhetoric more attuned to passion psychology and the inner self, governed by principles of good taste.100 He might even hanker after an era still further off, the modern age of self-expression. What he wants to leave behind is the primitive oral world, equally offensive as actio, pronuntiatio, and the prefabricated soundbite as in its more clownish manifestations. Hamlet’s Media Studies, his anxiety over articulation, lead him away from what I have called the livingness of speech into the silence of the book. The play’s central concern with problems of expression and representation means that it addresses what has always been a core issue in English Studies, 98 Baldesar Castiglione, The Courtier, trans. Thomas Hoby (London: J. M. Dent, 1928), 51. 99 Richard Brathwait, The English Gentleman (London, 1630), 82. The terms ‘season’ and ‘discretion’ are frequent in Hamlet. 100 Although somewhat tangential to the subject of the present chapter, Philip Fisher’s brilliant essay, ‘Thinking about Killing: Hamlet and the Paths among the Passions’, in Susan Sontag (ed.), The Best American Essays, 1992 (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1992), 86–117, should be mentioned here.


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but it also presents a paradigm of the evolution of the subject. The product of an educational regime that tried to integrate grammar and rhetoric, articulation and expression in a programme dedicated to the development of communication skills, Hamlet is all about disintegration. Appearing on the crest of what can still be termed an English literary ‘renaissance’, the play also tracks the future of the subject of English, not yet born. As it rejects the world of speech, performance, and the media as unstable and inauthentic, the play, through its different versions and through the meditations of its central character, seems to search for a new authenticity in the concepts of a unified inner self and a stable, written text. These idealized versions of self and text were to become the future bedrock of English Studies. But at the start of the twenty-first century our own new media, together with the earlier arrival of theory, have worked to destabilize those concepts in a way that produces an image in reverse of the situation confronting the troubled hero of Hamlet. The diversely rhetorical world of 1600, to which the play responds, is in some ways closer to ours than that of 1800 or 1900. The aspects of Hamlet that interest us are those that reach out into the subject as a whole: the dimensions of the oral and the written, the relations between text and performance, and the impact of different media on our concept of selfhood. Hamlet, we have long been told, is uniquely amenable to reinvention in every age and culture. This is our Hamlet.


Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?


The sudden burgeoning of creative writing in British universities during the late 1990s is comparable with the rise of theory in the 1980s and has been greeted with similar suspicion. The scepticism of mainstream English-literature academics is understandable, even if it is increasingly difficult to define what that mainstream might consist of. But in two respects, at least, mistrust of creative writing, either as a branch of English Studies or as a subject in its own right, seems misplaced. For one thing, while there are theories of writing, ‘creative writing’ (as we call it) is essentially concerned with practice, not theory, and should therefore be welcomed by those hostile to theory. The other point is that creative writing is really the oldest aspect of English Studies and should therefore be welcomed by traditionalists. Since almost everybody agrees, from connoisseurs of Renaissance rhetoric to postcolonialist critics, that Shakespeare has to appear on the menu, whatever else your Department of English might be serving up, it would be reasonable to ask whether Shakespeare himself studied creative writing. Trying to answer that question might also help to establish its relationship to English proper, whatever that might be. Two quite simple points provide the basis for addressing this question. One is that the society Shakespeare was born into was experiencing an extraordinarily rapid expansion of educational opportunities available to families below the rank of gentleman.1 The other is that 1 See Joan Simon, Education and Society in Tudor England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966); Rosemary O’Day, Education and Society, 1500–1800: The Social Foundations of Education in Early Modern Britain (London: Longman, 1982); and, on education and drama, Darryl Grantley, Wit’s Pilgrimage: Theatre and the Social Impact of Education in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000).


Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?

the curriculum in place at the new or re-established Tudor grammar schools was strenuously dedicated to the language arts.2 Shakespeare’s father, a glover, was unable to write his own name; Shakespeare’s own writings record what is by far the largest vocabulary of any English author, around 25,000 words. The humanist-inspired education programme of the Tudor period set out to turn boys of relatively low rank, as well as their social superiors, into articulate, eloquent, and Latinate adults. But the sixteenth-century curriculum, though conceived in a spirit of pragmatism, could only have been of practical use to a fairly small number of children. The intensive training in communication skills (in Latin) was suitable for those intending to have administrative careers and hold public office, but the artisan or tradesman class hardly needed to be able to produce an extempore declamation on whether or not Orestes should have killed Clytemnestra. The Tudor educational expansion offered what education has always offered: upward social mobility, status. Becoming Latinate, if only to a modest degree, was a step towards gentility.3 At a more practical level, however, there was the matter of employment, and it is not difficult to see how the kinds of skill thought suitable for future administrators, in what was still a deeply oral culture, could also prove useful for more literary activities. By 1580, when Shakespeare was sixteen, the expanding London book trade and the newly opened professional theatre offered interesting opportunities for some of those eloquent schoolboys, or graduates, who had no chance of finding a job in the Elizabethan civil service. The literary renaissance in late sixteenth-century England was kick-started by an education system that was producing increasing numbers of the unemployably eloquent. Some, like Shakespeare, did not progress beyond a provincial grammar school, but further up the educational production line we find redundant Cambridge graduates reduced to taking employment as actors with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The appalling job prospects awaiting students from the elite universities at the end of the 1590s were described in a dramatic trilogy 2 That curriculum has been described voluminously by T. W. Baldwin in William Shakspere’s Small Latine and Lesse Greeke, 2 vols. (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1944) and concisely in Peter Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 11–47. 3 The competing claims of courtly and humanist attitudes towards composition and their part in the shaping of different styles of literary practice are discussed by Daniel Javitch, Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978).

Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?


known as the Parnassus Plays, probably written by a member of St John’s College, Cambridge. The plays follow the fortunes of two recent graduates, Philomusus and Studioso, who discover that in the real world sponsors for young men embarking on a poetic career are hard to find. The first play is called The Pilgrimage to Parnassus, and by the third in the sequence, The Second Part of The Return from Parnassus, the pair have been approached by Burbage and Kempe, who think they may be able to hire them cheaply. The theatre impresario and his clown are clearly ignoramuses, since they praise Shakespeare and run down Jonson, and eventually the disgusted scholars decide to abandon their literary aspirations and go off to be shepherds in Kent. The Parnassus Plays are about education, literature, and social class, and they also offer a fascinating snapshot of contemporary literary taste. For the students they tell a tale of downward social mobility. At the same time, and in spite of the fact that Philomusus and Studioso reject the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, they indicate the extent to which the educated and uneducated mingled in the theatre of Shakespeare’s day. Some actors would have been illiterate, but many of the playwrights were graduates, though Ben Jonson, highly rated by the Cambridge students, was not one of them. As for Shakespeare, another non-graduate, of course, the message they send out is quite ambiguous. His great admirer in these plays is one Gullio, a rather stupid courtier with a taste for soft-centred love poetry. So while Shakespeare is not sophisticated, he is not exactly a peasant either, since he is clearly able to gauge courtly taste. What is more, his Ovidianism, which is all too apparent in the poetry Gullio wiltingly quotes, is something he shares with the students: ‘they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphoses’ Kempe snorts when they arrive at Bankside.4 In Shakespeare’s case, then, the social trajectory is upward. In retrospect, the irony about the Parnassus plays is that the students are unaware that in travelling from Cambridge to Bankside in 1600 they have already reached Parnassus. Indeed, in the same year Robert Allott published an anthology celebrating the national literary renaissance called England’s Parnassus, or The Choysest Flowers of our Moderne Poets, which contained passages from Shakespeare, among others. Shakespeare himself made the same pilgrimage, but without the disillusionment, because his starting point was different. 4 The Three Parnassus Plays (1598–1601), ed. J. B. Leishman (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1949), The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus, 4.3.1766–7.


Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?

This is to describe social routes between education and the theatre. What of my second point, that the grammar schools up and down the country were dedicated to teaching the language arts, and that this was the catalyst for the literary renaissance at the end of the sixteenth century? The simple objection to the claim that Shakespeare studied either creative writing or anything resembling English at The King’s School, Stratford, is that what he would actually have been taught was Latin, and perhaps some Greek.5 But this would be to misunderstand the nature of the curriculum. Latin was not so much a subject in itself, to be studied alongside mathematics or history, as the vehicle through which an education was acquired and the gateway to all branches of knowledge. The sixteenth-century school curriculum was broken down into stages in the development of various language and communication skills; its ultimate aim was that the schoolboy should achieve perfect facility in speaking and writing Latin. Roger Ascham, who taught the future Queen Elizabeth, subtitled his, posthumously published, book The Scholemaster (1570) as ‘the plaine and perfit way of teachyng children, to understand, write, and speake, the Latin tong’. But earlier the humanist educator Juan Luis Vives, tutor to Mary Tudor, had also observed that ‘just as desires and roads are all separated from one another and denoted by their end, so all the arts are distinguished by their end, not by the subject matter’. So the curriculum in place during Shakespeare’s childhood has to be understood less in terms of content than as a process, a means to an end. The end was eloquence, and the medium was Latin, but the skills acquired were undoubtedly transferable from the classical languages to the vernacular.6 Despite the fact that, as noted above, many schools required pupils to speak Latin to each other even during playtime, English was, somewhat paradoxically, used in the classroom. As we saw in Chapter 1, John Brinsley, a schoolmaster at Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, prepared what he called ‘Grammatical translations’ of Latin texts, including an Ovid, for use as teaching aids. One of their functions, he explains, was 5 There is a good reconstruction of Shakespeare’s schooling in Park Honan, Shakespeare: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 43–59. 6 Brian Vickers points out that ‘Ascham wrote essentially for students of Latin, not for creative writers in their mother tongue . . . But for the poets and dramatists who had studied at the grammar schools proliferating across Britain the doctrine of imitatio perfectly applied to their attempts to write in English’ (English Renaissance Literary Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999), 27).

Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?


To helpe to proceed as well in our English tongue as in the Latine, for reading, and writing true orthography; to attaine variety and copy of English words, to expresse their mindes easily, and utter any matter belonging to their Authors. And so in time, to come to propriety, choise, and purity, as well in our English as in the Latine.7

Although Brinsley’s book appeared quite some time after Shakespeare’s own schooldays, there were few significant educational changes in the intervening period. What is more important is the status of his school. While Ascham, as a royal tutor and leading classical scholar, might have been uncompromising with regard to Latinity, further down the social scale there would have been greater indulgence towards the mother tongue. Stratford would have been more like Ashby-de-la-Zouch than Eton, and therefore more likely to have encouraged the kind of exchange between Latin and English that Brinsley describes. The principle of transferable skills, and the disjunction between process and content, is actually quite crucial to an understanding of where both creative writing and English Studies came from in the first place; and also where Shakespeare came from. Let us imagine for a moment an interview with the middle-aged Shakespeare, looking back on his schooldays: ‘I grew up with a hunger for articulation . . . [I tried to write poetry] articulate and sensual . . . I loved learning Latin and Greek. . . I set myself to learn all the forms, doggedly . . . but to fill it, to make it burst at the seams’. This interview is not, however, a mere fiction. The speaker is, in fact, Tony Harrison, reflecting in 1999 on his experience as a scholarship boy at Leeds Grammar School and on the relationship between his classical education and his own creativity.8 One image is personal. The cliché ‘burst at the seams’ takes on fresh meaning from the fact that Harrison’s father was a miner, and perhaps also brings to mind Keats’s poetic injunction to ‘load every rift with ore’. His ‘hunger for articulation’, as he explains in the interview (and writes about in the poems ‘Heredity’ and ‘Study’), was driven by the negative example of his two uncles, one a stammerer and the other dumb. But, putting aside the personalia, we have in Harrison a modern instance of a tradition that stretches back centuries: a poet who learns to write in English by learning to read and write Latin. Leeds Grammar was founded in 1552, the year before ‘the Kynges Newe Scole of Stratford upon Avon’ received its charter. Harrison gives 7 8

Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, ed. Campagnac, 106–7. Interview with Melvyn Bragg on ‘The South Bank ‘Show’, ITV 1, 28 March 1999.


Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?

the date in his poem ‘Classics Society’ and adds an epigraph, from the 1552 edition of Robert Recorde’s The Ground of Artes, dedicated to Edward VI, where the author explains why he declines to translate a passage from Cicero: ‘the grace of Tullies eloquence doth excell any englysh mans tongue, [and muche more excedeth the barenesse of] my barbarous style’.9 Harrison and Shakespeare, and I am not making extravagant claims for Harrison by pairing them here, both share a barbarous style that is nonetheless the product of a classical education. There is the same bending of formal metre to accommodate speech rhythms, the same intrusion of common words into high places, the same mixture of demotic orality and written elegance. Stephen Spender touched on this when he suggested that, as a working-class poet with an aristocratic style and vocabulary, we might think of Harrison as a changeling from Shakespearean romance—a kind of male Perdita, one imagines.10 The oddity of this is that Spender’s assumption that Harrison would have to be ‘really’ aristocratic to write such poetry in the first place is tantamount to saying that The Winter’s Tale must have been written by the Earl of Oxford. This is not, of course, what he means. What he is presumably trying to say is that different levels of stylistic register may be figured in terms of social class or rank, and that Harrison’s mixing of these registers has a Shakespearean quality to it. Harrison himself is aware of this, and the point of ‘Classics Society’ is to draw a parallel between his own education and that of the boys who entered the schools, like Stratford, founded by Edward VI to civilize the barbarian English through a suitably elevating programme of classicization. The Perdita principle in this context is that English both survives the encounter and is enhanced by it. So what exactly did Shakespeare learn at school? The first scholar to address this question directly was T. S. Baynes, Professor of Logic, Metaphysics, and English Literature at St Andrews in the years immediately preceding the foundation of the Berry Chair of English Literature in 1897.11 Baynes’s essay ‘What Shakespeare Learnt at 9 Robert Recorde, The Ground of Artes, 4th edn. (London, 1552), Aiiiv–Aiiiir (the words in brackets are omitted from the epigraph); Tony Harrison, Selected Poems, 2nd edn. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987), 120. 10 See Stephen Spender, ‘Changeling’, in Neil Astley (ed.) Tony Harrison (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1991), 221–2. 11 See Thomas Spencer Baynes, Shakespeare Studies and Other Essays (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1894), 147–249, though the alternative tradition of claiming Shakespeare’s lack of education goes back to Farmer’s Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare, 1767) (Baldwin, Shakspere’s ‘Small Latine’, i. 72–4).

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School’ provided the germ for T. W. Baldwin’s vast, double-decker study, William Shakspere’s ‘Small Latine and Lesse Greeke’, published in 1944 and running to some fifteen hundred pages. ‘We may now attempt to carry on from where Baynes left off’, Baldwin announces, and then takes the reader on a marathon journey through the curricula of sixteenth-century English grammar schools. Although difficult both to access and digest, the material that Baldwin accumulated is nonetheless very valuable, and the case that it supports, that Shakespeare must have acquired a considerable amount of Latin if he had attended school for any length of time, is entirely persuasive. His methodology is essentially to survey the reading lists and timetables from a wide range of Tudor schools in order to demonstrate the basic similarity of the syllabus throughout the country. What Baldwin presents is a sixteenthcentury national curriculum with local variations. So while there is no documentary evidence for the Stratford curriculum itself, it can reasonably be inferred from what was standard practice elsewhere. Baldwin then identifies the residue of Shakespeare’s putative educational experience in the texts of the plays and poems themselves. The amount of material on the sixteenth-century school syllabus assembled by Baldwin is likely to leave even the well-informed reader feeling swamped. Alongside Cicero and Ovid, minor Roman authors swirl round with the even dimmer names of Renaissance rhetoricians. From Eton to Rivington, Winchester to Rotherham, similar patterns are repeated with variations in the level at which different authors and texts were introduced. So it may be useful simply to outline the course of study that Marlowe would have followed at Canterbury, since we have no record of the syllabus at Stratford itself. Interestingly, the statutes for Canterbury require the teacher to have the qualities of an architect (in edificiorum architecto) and the developing syllabus therefore parallels the stages in the construction of a building.12 Broadly speaking, grammar dominated the work of the first three forms and rhetoric the second three, or, to put it another way, articulation came first, then expression. As an aid to learning the rudiments of the Latin language, boys were given ‘Cato’—a collection of moralizing verse couplets, edited by Erasmus and sometimes printed in bilingual form— Aesop’s Fables, and Erasmus’ dialogues, the Familiar Colloquies. In the third form they progressed to Terence’s comedies and the Eclogues 12 Arthur F. Leach, Educational Charters and Documents 598 to 1909, 465–9. Mulcaster also figures the teacher as architect in The Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 253.


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of the Italian Renaissance poet Mantuan (‘good old Mantuan’, as Holofernes says), and throughout there was considerable emphasis on oral language skills, as the presence of drama and dialogue would suggest. The master took over from his assistant at fourth-form level, where they concentrated on the literary classics (‘the stories of poets, and familiar letters of learned men and the like’), while creative writing appeared in the fifth form: ‘they shall commit to memory the Figures of Latin oratory and the rules for making verses; and at the same time shall be practised in making verses and polishing themes’. This was accompanied by the translation of poetry and history. In the sixth form they studied Erasmus’ De Copia (‘On the copiousness of words and things’) for rhetorical amplification, they read Horace for poetry and Cicero for oratory, and they practised their debating skills by learning the art of declamation. Marlowe attended King’s School, Canterbury, about thirty years after these statutes were established, and this is essentially the regime he would have followed. Shakespeare’s other great contemporary in the theatre, Ben Jonson, was educated at Westminster, a school so academically high-powered that sixth-formers were expected to struggle not only with Greek but also with Hebrew. But at lower levels the syllabus is fairly similar. Cato, Aesop, Erasmus’ Colloquies, and Terence appear at the same points, and later on (the Westminster statutes are more explicit about authors and texts) the stories of the poets and familiar letters turn out to be Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Tristia, a selection of Cicero’s epistles (by Sturm), and Cicero on friendship and on duty.13 Jonson’s superior observation on Shakespeare’s ‘small Latine and lesse Greeke’ has to be understood strictly in relative terms. What is really striking about this curriculum, whether at Canterbury or at Westminster, is that it is intensely verbal and literary, but also that it has a marked emphasis on the performative—in speech, in drama, and in debate. This is because one very important aim of this rhetorically based education was to enable pupils to speak extempore. Quintilian actually says that ‘the greatest fruit of our studies, the richest harvest of our long labours, is the power of improvization’.14 So a sense of timeliness, an 13 Leach, Educational Charters, 509–19. ‘Shakespeare’s first lessons in poetry were lessons in the imitation of Ovid’ remarks Jonathan Bate in his outstanding Shakespeare and Ovid (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993). 22. See also R. W. Maslen, ‘Myths Exploited: The Metamorphoses of Ovid in Early Elizabethan England’, in A. B. Taylor (ed.), Shakespeare’s Ovid: The ‘Metamorphoses’ in the Plays and Poems, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 15–30. 14 Insitutio oratoria, 10. 7. 1.

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ability to speak as the occasion demands, and with an effect of spontaneity, were highly valued accomplishments in the Renaissance. Verbal training at school, which included committing a large amount of textual matter to memory, might have been guided by the Scouts’ motto ‘Be Prepared’. This is evident in references to a writer’s ‘ready wit’, for example. It is certainly a distinctive Shakespearean quality.15 The Canterbury statutes describe good teachers as architects, but the true architects of the grammar-school curriculum were Quintilian and Erasmus. Jonson’s ideas about creative writing were profoundly indebted to Quintilian, as a browse through Discoveries will show, and he recommended Quintilian to Drummond as a comprehensive guide to composition. Quintilian himself drew heavily on Cicero, the master Roman orator, but his own book, Institutio oratoria, written in AD 92–4, is the most comprehensive account of the theory and practice of rhetoric that we have from antiquity. He defines rhetoric at the start as the art of persuasive speaking, but this also requires him to discuss creative writing and literary criticism.16 A teacher himself, he explains early on where the demarcation line between literature and rhetoric should lie as far as education is concerned. The literature teacher, who is called a grammaticus (litteratura being the Latin term for Greek grammatice17), is initially described with some enthusiasm. The lecturer’s voice, he says, is like the sun which distributes its universal largesse of heat and light equally (ut sol universis idem lucis calorisque largitur); this is a phrasing that Shakespeare seems to have borrowed for Henry V, where Henry’s ‘largess universal, like the sun’ offers a ‘little touch of Harry in the night’ to his bedraggled troops (4.0.43, 47).18 ‘So too with the teacher of literature’, Quintilian continues: ‘Whether he speak of style or expound disputed passages, explain stories or paraphrase poems, everyone who hears him will profit by his teaching’. However, it soon becomes clear that the literature teacher is junior to 15 Writing in the Restoration period, John Aubrey underlined the importance of being able ‘to word it extemporary, sur le champ’, adding that ‘I have heard some ascribe the great readiness and well-speaking of the French to their children’s reading so much of romances’; (Aubrey on Education, ed. J. E. Stephens (London and Boston, Mass.: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), 123–4). 16 There are, of course, differences between Latin language teaching in ancient Rome and the teaching of Latin as a second scholarly or professional language, see James J. Murphy, ‘Roman Writing Instruction as Described by Quintilian’, in Murphy (ed.), A Short History of Writing Instruction, (Davis, Calif.: Hermagoras, 1990), 19–76. 17 Insitutio oratoria, 2. 1. 4. 18 Ibid. 1. 2. 14; Baldwin uses this example to show that Shakespeare must have been familiar with Quintilian’s Latin (see Shakspere’s ‘Small Latine’, ii. 198).


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the teacher of rhetoric. He is to limit himself to ‘the art of speaking correctly and the interpretation of authors’,19 though he may also deal with the writing of moral essays and delineations of character, if the rhetoric teachers claim that this sort of work is beneath them. Quintilian concedes that ‘there may be a few professors of literature who have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to teach rhetoric as well’, but his real concern is to keep literature teachers in their place. In what might seem to us like a premonition of modern English Studies, he claims that their subject has spead far beyond its original boundaries: ‘springing from a tiny fountain-head, it has gathered strength from the historians and critics and swollen to the dimensions of a brimming river’.20 Interdisciplinarity was allowed to rhetoric, but not to literature teaching. From our point of view, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this discussion is the role reversal. In this original programme for literature teaching in the vernacular—the subject that we now refer to simply as English—the grammaticus is the drudge and it is the rhetoric teacher who has the prestige. In the modern subject, where such a demarcation line exists, as in the USA, the literature teachers, or critics, form the elite and the teachers of rhetoric are consigned to the lumpenprofessoriat. It must, however, be stressed that there is a sharp distinction to be made between the teaching of writing skills and the teaching of creative writing. The first, also known as ‘rhetoric and composition’, is perfectly clear about its aims and objectives, and possibly for that reason enjoys lower academic prestige than the purer arts of self-expression. But in a Renaissance context the distinction is much less clear. Little difference was perceived between rhetoric and poetics, for example.21 And the conflation of purposeful, persuasive expression with the business of literary composition provides the context for our understanding of Shakespeare’s education and how it may have shaped him as a writer. In the Renaissance the relationship between literary study and the teaching of both grammar and rhetoric was certainly vital. Richard Mulcaster wrote in The Elementarie that in Rome the ‘professors [of grammar] bycause of their judgement were called Critici’.22 This would establish an impressive pedigree for the critical profession, espe20 Ibid. 2. 1. 4–6. Institutio oratoria, 1. 9. 1. See Brian Vickers ‘Rhetoric and Poetics’, in C. B. Schmitt and Quentin Skinner (eds.) The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 715–45. 22 Mulcaster, Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 55. 19 21

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cially as Mulcaster’s work is actually concerned with the teaching of English, not Latin, and has a good claim to be considered the first English textbook.23 He also argued that grammar was best learned when ‘applyed to matter, and not clogd with rules’, so making it an imitative rather than a logical process.24 The result of this was that grammar went hand in hand with literary study, as Quintilian thought it should. An extreme statement of this position was made by William Webbe, who argued, as Martin Elsky puts it, that ‘language teachers [should] dispense with all grammar rules and . . . replace them with the study of usage in literary authors alone’.25 And if literature served grammar, it also served rhetoric as a resource for imitation. The essential point is that literary study was directed towards creative practice, not towards the more passive business of critical evaluation, just as Renaissance literary criticism in general, beyond the academy, presented itself in prescriptive terms as an aid to composition. For that reason, Mulcaster’s reference to the Roman teachers of grammar as critics is potentially misleading. But what is not in doubt is the importance of literature in an educational programme designed to teach communication and composition skills. Uppingham School in Rutland, which dates from 1587, is reported by William Camden to have been founded for ‘the training up of children in good literature’.26 And in Mulcaster’s other work (Positions, 1581), he is concerned that boys who do not go on to university will actually get too much literature. He writes that ‘toungues cannot better be perfitted, than streight after their entrie by the grammer schoole’, but adds that those who do not go on to higher education will simply ‘rest in those pleasaunt kinde of writers, which delite most in ga[y]ing of their language, as poëtes, histories, discourses, and such, as will be counted generall men’.27 If the Tudor grammar school offered an education in verbal gaiety in order to produce a ‘general man’, it is baffling that anyone should have supposed that Shakespeare needed to go to university in order to write his plays. 23 As distinct from the first textbook for English Studies, which, I suggest, is Hugh Blair’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (see Chapter 6 below). Mulcaster is concerned specifically with the English language. On English teaching in the early modern period see William Nelson, ‘The Teaching of English in Tudor Grammar Schools’, Studies in Philology, 49 (1952), 119–43. 24 Mulcaster, Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 248. 25 Martin Elsky, Authorizing Words, 50. 26 See A. Monroe Stowe, English Grammar Schools in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1908), 20. 27 Mulcaster, Positions Concerning the Training Up of Children, 242.


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Crucial aspects of the programme Quintilian outlines are carried over into the Renaissance and feed directly into Shakespeare’s own educational experience. The division between lower and upper forms parallels the distinction between grammar and rhetoric, and many of the same exercises, from the reading of Aesop to the writing of themes, reappear. The person chiefly responsible for transferring the Roman regime of literature and rhetoric to Tudor England was Erasmus. In 1523, when he was mulling over plans for his ‘Collected Works’, he wrote to Johann von Botzheim to say that ‘In the first volume can be put everything that concerns literature and education’, with De Copia taking pride of place.28 This work was even to come before De Ratione studii (On the Method of Study), an agenda-setting piece explicitly derived from Quintilian. De Copia, then, which the Toronto edition of Erasmus subtitles ‘Foundations of the Abundant Style’, and which typically appeared as the culmination of a Tudor grammar school education, was the guiding spirit of Erasmus’ pedagogical programme. The book is centrally concerned with the art of variation, saying the same thing in different ways, and is based on Quintilian’s principle that stylistic exuberance is a lesser fault than barrenness (sterilia) because it can easily be corrected. In fact, Quintilian even says that ‘I like to see the first fruits of the mind copious to excess and almost extravagant in their profusion’ (abundantiorem atque ultra quam oportet fusam).29 Erasmus’ textbook stimulated an idea of stylistic fertility that was inevitably transferred to English. Despite his uncompromising views on the inadequacy of the vernacular, and despite the element of prescription in his educational writings, the actual effect of De Copia, and by extension the entire humanist educational programme in England, was to inculcate the values of expressive freedom and versatility.30 Several quite differing aspects of Shakespeare’s writing could be described as Erasmian: they would include the creative redeployment of phrases from classical literature gathered in the Adagia and Parabolae, the echoing of themes in the dialogues of the Colloquies, and the dramatic development of opposing concepts of salutary folly 28 Erasmus, ‘1523–4 Catalogue’, in Collected Works of Erasmus, xxiv, ed. Craig R. Thompson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978), 694. 29 Institutio oratoria, 2. 4. 7. 30 Peter Mack points out that most sixteenth-century editions of De Copia contained the commentary by Weltkirchius which ‘emphasises the links between Erasmus’s work and the rest of the humanist educational programme’ (Elizabethan Rhetoric, 32). On Shakespeare and Erasmian copia see Marion Trousdale, Shakespeare and the Rhetoricians (London: Scolar, 1982), 43–55.

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and deluded wisdom from Praise of Folly. One very specific debt is to Erasmus’ ‘Epistle’ in praise of marriage, Encomium matrimonii, which Brian Vickers has traced extensively in the first seventeen Sonnets.31 The Sonnets can also be understood as Erasmian in a broader sense. Not only are they consummate exercises in variation on a theme, but the theme on which that art is practised is copia or ‘copy’ itself. The argument of the opening sequence moves from biological reproduction to reproduction in verse as a means of countering the depradations of time. The second is a variation on the first, and then interchanges with it, suggesting an affinity between the two processes, as Quintilian’s metaphors of stylistic abundance and sterility also imply. The parallel is perfectly summed up by the multiple puns in the phrase ‘lines of life’ in Sonnet 16, which play with the relations between children’s features, posterity, lines of descent, and the immortality conferred by poetry. The gene store, like Erasmus’ verbal storehouses of expression, is a resource for reproduction, and copia is maintained by copying. ‘Lady, you are the cruell’st she alive | If you will lead these graces to the grave | And leave the world no copy’, Viola says to Olivia in Twelfth Night (1.5.230–2). And in Sonnet 11 the Young Man is told: Let those whom nature hath not made for store— Harsh, featureless, and rude—barrenly perish . . . She carv’d thee for her seal, and meant thereby Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

Erasmus’ textbook is itself a ‘store’ of copy, a manual for reproduction whose watchword is abundance. There are no close verbal parallels between De Copia and the Sonnets, as there are with the epistle in praise of marriage, but the theme of Erasmus’ work acts as an informing principle in the Young Man sequence. It also underlines the point that writing is a natural process. Indeed, Erasmus introduces his work on variation by asserting that ‘Nature above all delights in variety; in all this huge concourse of things, she has left nothing anywhere unpainted by her wonderful technique of variety’.32 The Renaissance debate about art and nature has the air of an exhausted subject, like the fabled theme of ‘appearance and reality’ in Shakespeare, but it would be impossible to discuss Vickers (ed.), English Renaissance Literary Criticism, 31–9. Erasmus, ‘Copia’: Foundations of the Abundant Style, trans. Betty I. Knott in Collected Works, xxiv, ed. Craig R. Thompson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978), 302. 31 32


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whether Shakespeare studied creative writing without some reference to it. Education itself may be classified as an art, as Aristotle does in the Politics,33 while early comment on Shakespeare consistently presents him as a product of nature. The most succinct version of this came from the Restoration writer, Sir Charles Sedley, who positioned Shakespeare as The Pride of Nature, and the shame of Schools, Born to Create, and not to Learn from Rules.34

But humanist educators would not have accepted such a formulation. As we have seen, they rejected grammar learning by rule in favour of the study of literary usage, while Erasmus’ point about variety locates the rhetorical figure of amplificatio in nature itself. Puttenham, whose Arte of English Poesie was written for a courtly audience and who might therefore be expected to give preference to art, also identifies nature as the source of rhetoric: all your figures Poeticall or Rhethoricall, are but observations of strange speeches, and such as without any arte at al we should use, & commonly do, even by very nature without discipline . . . so as we may conclude, that nature her selfe suggesteth the figure in this or that forme: but arte aydeth the judgement of his use and application.35

Renaissance writers conceived of nature as either God-given, and therefore liable to corruption, or as wild and unformed, and therefore in need of improvement, but however much they stress the need for nature to be perfected by art, they all agree on the primacy of nature and on the importance of appearing to be natural. The mediating term in this antithesis is ‘craft’, an acquired skill that is practised to the point where it becomes, as it were, second nature.36 Puttenham is understandably a little ambiguous about this, since he doesn’t want his courtly maker to be a tradesman, and he distinguishes the courtier from the ‘crafts-man’ who works in a shop. But elsewhere he refers to oratory as a craft (as Leonard Cox did in the first English See Aristotle, Politics, 8. 1. The Shakespeare Allusion Book, ed. John Munro, 2 vols. (London: Chatto and Windus, 1919), ii. 392. 35 Puttenham, English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker 298. See also Derek Attridge, ‘Puttenham’s Perplexity: Nature, Art, and the Supplement in Renaissance Poetic Theory’, in Patricia Parker and David Quint (eds.), Literary Theory/Renaissance Texts Baltimore, Md., and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 257–79. 36 On ‘craft’ see Gabriel Josipovici, On Trust: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1999), 101–2. 33 34

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book on the subject), he draws many analogies between poetic composition and craftsmanship throughout the work, and he ends by reassuring ‘our maker . . . that he may both use, and also manifest his arte to his great praise, and need no more be ashamed thereof, than a shomaker to have made a cleanly shoe, or a Carpenter to have buylt a faire house’.37 Creative writing is in this respect no different from any other kind of writing, or reading, for that matter, since we are talking about a period when basic literacy skills were classed as crafts such as cobbling or carpentry. Marlowe’s father was a cobbler and Jonson’s a bricklayer, while the father of the Cambridge rhetoric professor Gabriel Harvey was a rope-maker, much to the amusem*nt of Thomas Nashe. Perhaps the gulf between John Shakespeare, glove-maker and whitener and curer of hides, and his play-maker son was not so great after all. The aspect of creative writing in the Renaissance that most obviously represents it as a craft is the practice of imitation. In order to learn a trade you have to imitate a master, and that is why humanists advocated the study of literary usage for grammar learning. Conventional modern assumptions about creativity would characterize almost any form of imitation as the antithesis of creativity and therefore to be avoided. But successful imitation, not originality, is at the heart of Renaissance thinking about creative writing.38 In this spirit I quote the classical scholar R. R. Bolgar, quoted by Emrys Jones in The Origins of Shakespeare: Shakespeare was ‘a product of a world that had learnt through imitation. The fragments which others excerpted from the classics had come to him along a thousand devious paths to form the essential fabric of his outlook’.39 And Jones himself was responsible for the highly quotable aphorism, very much to the purpose here: ‘Without humanism, in short, there could have been no Elizabethan literature: without Erasmus, no Shakespeare.’40 The centrality of imitation in Renaissance literature is demonstrated by the extensiveness of the debate, in the earlier sixteenth century, about its 37 Puttenham, English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker, 302–3; see also 146, 185, 299, 304, 306; Leonard Cox, The Art or Crafte of Rhetoryke (1532). 38 See David Quint et al. (eds.) Creative Imitation: New Essays on Renaissance Literature In Honor of Thomas M. Greene, (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1992)—a festschrift that pays tribute to Greene’s work in this field. 39 R. R. Bolgar, The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954), 329; Jones, The Origins of Shakespeare, 19. 40 Ibid. 13.


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principles and proper execution. Should the practitioner imitate one author or several? Should he attempt to follow his master’s style or adapt his subject matter? Should he take an entire work as his model or different aspects of it?41 The issues debated cover the whole range of creativity in both theory and practice, and are of considerable intellectual interest, especially in view of our own post-Romantic and now postmodern conditions, where quotation and allusion, in many different guises, are so pervasive. In the sixteenth century, however, the controversy over imitation was at its most vigorous in Italy in the period before the birth of Shakespeare. Giraldi Cinthio, a major supplier of plot material for Shakespeare’s own exercises in imitation, intervened in the debate with the Discorsi, published in 1554, which discussed romances.42 But by this time the central terms of the debate were no longer live issues. Of more direct relevance to the Elizabethans, as far as the theory of imitation is concerned, is Seneca’s Epistle 84, which was well known in the period and available in English translation as well as in Latin. It is a principal source for many Renaissance ideas about imitation (not just in England) and conveniently lists some of the different forms the practice might take.43 After advising his correspondent, Lucilius, that we should alternate writing and reading, Seneca suggests that we follow the example of the bees who produce honey from flowers; this leads to a second metaphor of digestion, and then to the filial analogy of the child copying the father. Each of these is a metaphor of transformation, where the imitative process is imagined as one of assimilation and re-creation. Renaissance writers debated the implications of these different concepts of imitation and also concepts of imitation that fall into different categories. Alongside the group of transformative metaphors there are those of dissimulation, where the writer tries to conceal his source, and those of emulation, where he contends with a dominant predecessor (later to emerge as Harold Bloom’s ‘anxiety of influence’).

41 See especially George W. Pigman III, ‘Versions of Imitation in the Renaissance’, Renaissance Quarterly, 33 (1980), 1–32, and Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1982), esp. pp. 171–96. 42 See Giraldi Cinthio: On Romances, trans. Henry L. Snuggs (Lexington, K.: University of Kentucky Press, 1968) and Martin L. McLaughlin, Literary Imitation in the Italian Renaissance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), 272. 43 See Seneca, Epistulae morales, trans. Richard M. Gummere, 3 vols. (London: Heinemann, 1917), 276–85, and Pigman, ‘Versions of Imitation’, 4–15.

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The English Renaissance writer who is most interested in the business of imitation is Ben Jonson, and perhaps obsessively so, for at one point in Discoveries he notes that ‘our whole life is like a play: wherein every man, forgetful of himself, is in travail with expression of another. Nay, we so insist in imitating others, as we cannot, when it is necessary, return to ourselves’.44 As well as reminding us of the etymology of ‘expression’ as ‘to push out’, the observation also combines transformative and emulative concepts of imitation. On the face of it, Jonson seems merely to be saying that we are constantly aping each other, but the image of childbirth (‘travail with expression’) reveals other anxieties. All the labour of expression will only produce somebody else’s baby. What’s more, the process of imitation is emasculating, casting the male writer as the female recipient of seed from his literary precursor.45 The image of childbirth is a transformative metaphor of imitation, but the loss of identity that it entails also turns it into a fearfully emulative one. At the same time, as far as the debate about art and nature is concerned, there is no doubt that this metaphor—like Shakespeare’s images of copy as both sexual and literary reproduction, and like Seneca’s images of the bees, digestion, and fathers and sons— describes imitation as an entirely natural process. It was of course Jonson who first characterized Shakespeare as a product of nature, short on artistry, in his conversations with Drummond, and then in Discoveries and in the poem which prefaced the First Folio. The last also offers a corrective view, setting the record straight, as one might expect from an elegy: ‘a good poet’s made as well as born’, he writes. And that is one question I am addressing in this chapter. How was Shakespeare ‘made’? If the answer to this question requires some reference to his imitative practices, then we need to distinguish further between two styles of imitation. For there is clearly a difference between using a passage or an entire work from another author as a model for your own composition and the borrowing of small textual fragments from a variety of sources to reform in new contexts. The second practice, which is what Erasmus’ textbooks encouraged, and what Bolgar meant by imitation, might better be described as

Ben Jonson, ed. Donaldson, 551. Contrast Milton’s ‘On Shakespeare. 1630’. Whereas copia in the Erasmian sense is infinitely recyclable, for Milton Shakespeare is too copious. Like the Gorgon’s head (an image for rhetoric in Plato) he ‘Dost make us marble with too much conceiving’ (l. 14), so that reproduction is impossible. (I am indebted to Alex Davis for this point.) 44 45


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intertextuality.46 It is certainly true that we can find examples of the first style of imitation in Shakespeare, and these have naturally been much discussed. One of the best known is Prospero’s ‘Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves’, based on Medea’s speech in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which Shakespeare imitated from Golding’s English version as well as from the original Latin. Another most famous example is Enobarbus’ description of Cleopatra, ‘The barge she sat in . . .’, which reworks a passage from North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives. Further instances are Jaques’s set piece on the seven ages of man, which derives from Palingenius and other sources, and Portia’s speech on mercy, which follows Seneca’s De Clementia.47 But most Shakespearean imitation is of the intertextual kind; indeed, the multiple sources for Jaques’s and Portia’s speeches move them in that direction too. Shakespeare practises imitation as assimilation, not emulation. He is not competitive or deliberately allusive, like Jonson (and Milton). In general, we must assume the process of assimilation to have been so complete that the sources are untraceable, except for those tiny spots of verbal residue that betray their origins. Undigested or semi-digested passages, like the above, are exceptional, and one of them, Enobarbus’ speech, should really be classed as appropriation, though perhaps not of the dissimulative kind. I am not attempting here to document the many small whispers of Shakespearean borrowing, overheard by generations of attentive scholars; nor do I have new ones of my own to add to the list. I want instead to show how different aspects of Shakespeare’s educational experience helped to ‘make’ the poet. The school exercise that is really at the heart of the Tudor schoolboy’s exposure to creative writing is the practice of double translation. This was in fact sometimes called ‘imitation’ by Elizabethan schoolmasters, and it is this that really confirms the transferability of writing skills between Latin and the vernacular in the Renaissance. Its principal advocate was not Erasmus but Vives, who had considerably more respect for the vernacular, urging the teacher to ‘be as a Prefect of the treasury of his language’ and advising that ‘the pupils translate from the mother-tongue into Latin, and then back 46 See Mary Thomas Crane, Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 16–17. On imitation as mimesis see Michel Jeanneret, A Feast of Words: Banquets and Table Talk in the Renaissance, trans. Jeremy Whiteley and Emma Hughes (Cambridge: Polity, 1991), 259–83. 47 See Baldwin, Shakspere’s ‘Small Latine’, i. 653, 667–74; Seneca, De Clementia 1. 19.

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again into the mother-tongue’.48 But the exercise is associated particularly with Roger Ascham: ‘I am moved to thinke, this waie of double translating, either onelie or chieflie, to be the fittest, for the spedy and perfit atteyning of any tong’, he declares, and explains how it is best done with three exercise books—one for translations from Latin into English, a second for re-translation of the English back into Latin, and a third for notes on classical literary usage which the pupil can imitate in his own compositions.49 John Brinsley was emphatic on the merits of double translation, explaining in his foreword to Ludus Literarius that he had devised his own style of translation so that the exercises Ascham had described in The Scholemaster could be practised in the ‘common schools’. He wants children By the translations of the Poets, as of Ovid and Virgil, to have a most plain way into the first entrance into versifying, to turne the prose of the Poets into the Poets owne verse, with delight, certainty and speed, without any bodging; and so by continuall practice to grow in this facilitie, for getting the phrase and veine of the Poet.50

He says that ‘continuall translating both wayes is a most speedy way to learning’, that ‘double Translation’ enables children ‘with variety of phrase to expresse their minds in English, as well as in Latine’ and that it ‘shall more stirre up the wit and memory to get propriety and copie of words and phrases’.51 In view of Brinsley’s belief in the importance of vernacular literacy, and his own development of teaching aids in the form of parallel-text versions of Ovid and Virgil,52 it seems fair to conclude that while the object of Tudor education was to achieve Latinity, its effect was to encourage bilingual literary competence. The exercise of double translation underlines the point, which I mentioned at the start, that what is vital in Tudor education is not content but process.53 The process of translating and retranslating from 48 Vives: On Education: A Translation of the ‘De Tradendis Disciplinis’ of Juan Luis Vives, trans. Foster Watson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913), 103, 113–14. On double translation see William E. Miller, ‘Double Translation in English Humanistic Education’, in Studies in the Renaissance, 10 (1963), 163–74, and Don Paul Abbot, ‘Rhetoric and Writing in Renaissance Europe and England’, in Murphy (ed.), Writing Instruction, 95–120. 49 Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, 245, 183. 50 51 Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, ed. Campagnac, 107. Ibid. 108, 115, 117. 52 On the use of Virgil in schools see Margaret Tudeau-Clayton, Jonson, Shakespeare and the Early Modern Virgil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 44–77. 53 The issue was raised in the Newbolt Report, The Teaching of English in England (London: HMSO, 1921): ‘the process of learning, and not the thing learned, was what mattered’, (p. 38). This view, which is attributed to Locke, is in fact said to have worked


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Latin into English, English into Latin, taught pupils stylistic versatility, but it also taught them to think double. Doubling in various forms is certainly a characteristic of Shakespeare. At the verbal level it is typically expressed in the rhetorical figure of hendiadys, the subject of what is a now classic essay by George T. Wright.54 The figure literally means ‘one through two’ and it involves the doubling of nouns in a phrase where one of them has an adjectival function: ‘the expectancy and rose of the fair state’ for ‘rosy expectation’, for example, or ‘the morn and liquid dew of youth’. These are both from Hamlet and Wright found sixty-six instances of hendiadys in that play alone. As soon as we recognize this as a hallmark stylistic device in Shakespeare, all sorts of other paired phrases come to mind, not necessarily examples of hendiadys: ‘the sepulchres . . . | Have oped their ponderous and marble jaws’; ‘naught enters there | Of what validity and pitch soe’er | But falls into abatement and low price’. One modern poet who was particularly excited by this aspect of Shakespeare’s language was Ted Hughes, and he discussed it at some length in the essay attached to his Choice of Shakespeare’s Verse, revised and expanded in 1991. ‘On the catastrophe and heel of pastime’, from All’s Well, was one line that fascinated him, and which he analysed in detail.55 What interested Hughes was the way in which Shakespeare seemed to be using one word to amplify or complement or translate another, typically pairing ‘high’ and ‘low’ terms. He referred this doubling technique to left-side and right-side activities of the brain. But I wonder, more mundanely, whether this habit of thinking in pairs was not instilled by the ruled page of the school exercise book. ‘Cause them to rule their bookes both sides at once’ Brinsley recommends for double translation.56 The page, as well as the brain, has a left side and a right side. Shakespeare’s double voice, elevated and demotic, sliding between the different stylistic registers marked by Latin and English, is also his signature.57 He achieved it by what seems an almost systematic against the establishment of English as a subject. For a modern view of the importance of process over content see Alan Durant, ‘Literacy and Literature: Priorities in English Studies Towards 2000’, in Barbara Korte and Klaus Peter Muller (eds.) Anglistiche Lehre Aktuell: Probleme, Perspektiven, Praxis (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 1995), 37–59. 54 George T. Wright, ‘Hendiadys and Hamlet ‘, PMLA 96 (1981), 168–93. 55 Ted Hughes, A Choice of Shakespeare’s Verse (London: Faber, 1991), 185–92. 56 Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, ed. Campagnac, 150. 57 See Vivian Salmon, ‘Some Functions of Shakespearian Word-Formation’ and Bryan A. Garner, ‘Shakespeare’s Latinate Neologisms’ and ‘Latin-Saxon Hybrids in Shakespeare and the Bible’, in Vivian Salmon and Edwina Burness (eds.), A Reader in the

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transgression of some of Quintilian’s key prescriptions. To begin with, there is his speed of composition, though Quintilian warns, ‘write quickly and you will never write well, write well and you will soon write quickly’. This was almost certainly the cue for Jonson’s comment on his never having blotted a line: ‘he flowed with that facility that sometime it was necessary he should be stopped’.58 Quintilian also says that you should not mix genres: ‘Comedy does not walk in tragedy’s high boots, nor tragedy amble in comedy’s slippers.’ Shakespeare’s wilful failure to comply with this most elementary rule provided the first grounds for negative criticism at the end of the seventeenth century, from the likes of Thomas Rymer, as well as the first grounds for the modern recognition of his originality in Samuel Johnson’s perception that his compositions were of a distinct kind, combining comedy and tragedy. Again, Quintilian criticizes ‘the indiscriminate mixture of grand words with mean, old with new, and poetic with colloquial, the result being a monstrous medley’, which is exactly what I have been describing as Shakespeare’s double voice. And he also cites Cicero, who ‘points out that a metaphor must not be too great for its subject or, as is more frequently the case, too little, and that it must not be inappropriate’. In fact, ‘excess in the use of metaphor’ is generally condemned and an example is given in the line ‘Jove with white snow the wintry Alps bespewed’.59 Shakespeare seems to have known this passage, since it resurfaces in Henry V, yet metaphorical excess is undoubtedly another of his stylistic signatures. Sir Charles Sedley was certainly correct in noting that Shakespeare failed to learn from rules. While it may seem gratuitous to illustrate these points with a single example, it is important to focus, however briefly, on Shakespeare’s own language. My example is Macbeth, a play that has long been recognized as mixing classical with native English (and Scottish) elements.60 As well as reworking some familiar Senecan maxims, Shakespeare adds touches from Seneca’s grim tyrants, like Atreus, to his picture of Macbeth, and, most strikingly, finds a model in Seneca’s Medea for Lady Macbeth’s ferocious and obsessive unsexing of herself. But the Senecanism of Macbeth fluctuates between Latin and English Language of Shakespearean Drama, (Amsterdam and Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins, 1987), 193–206, 207–28, 229–34. Institutio oratoria, 10. 3. 9; Ben Jonson, ed. Donaldson, 539. Institutio oratoria, 10. 2. 22; 8. 3. 60; 8. 6. 16, cf. Henry V, 3. 5. 50–2. 60 See esp. Robert S. Miola, Shakespeare and Classical Tragedy: The Influence of Seneca (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 92–121. 58 59


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versions of the Roman plays. The witches, for example, seem to be echoing John Studley’s translation of Agamemnon, where ‘vexatque animos nova tempestas’ becomes ‘One hurly burly done, another doth begin’.61 The play is indeed Shakespeare’s tragedy of blood, and blood can either, in sonorous Latin phrase, ‘The multitudinous seas incarnadine’ or, in the down-home vein, make the grooms’ daggers appear ‘Unmannerly breeched with gore’ (2.2.60, 2.3.116). In the first instance the polysyllabic Latin ‘incarnadine’ is brilliantly contrasted with the simple English monosyllables, ‘Making the green one red’. In the second instance imagining the blood on the knives as a pair of sloppy leggings must commit at least two of Quintilian’s stylistic crimes, yet the reassuring domesticity of the image is entirely consistent with the poetic texture of the play. Macbeth is a concentrated drama, operating at a high pitch of terror and opening on to a supernatural world, but it works its effects through an interpenetration of the horrific and the homely. The Medean frenzy of Lady Macbeth’s ‘Unsex me here’ ends on the strangely domestic note of ‘Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark | To cry “Hold, hold!” ’ (1.5.52–3). The image is of starlight (echoed in the imagist poet T. E. Hulme’s ‘old star-eaten blanket of the sky’62), but we can also glimpse, in the word ‘peep’, the rejected child waking from a nightmare and clutching the blanket against her face. Again, Macbeth’s elegy on sleep is a piece of amplificatio, with parallels in Ovid and Seneca, that might have come straight out of Erasmus’ De Copia: Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast . . . (2.2.35–8)

But in its sad rehearsal of lost domestic comforts—Lady Macbeth darning her husband’s jersey, a nice hot bath at the end of the day, a second course at dinner—the lines offer a homely alternative to the high, tragic note of neoclassical horror, which can only intensify that horror. This is Shakespeare’s double voice at its most powerful.

61 Agamemnon, trans. John Studley, in Seneca: His Tenne Tragedies, ed. Thomas Newton, 2 vols. (London: Constable, 1927), ii.103. 62 T. E. Hulme, Selected Writings, ed. Patrick McGuinness (Manchester: Fyfield, 1998), 2.

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So we can summarize by saying that Shakespeare’s education was devoted almost exclusively to language and literature, but with the aim of textual reproduction (written and oral), rather than what we would now describe as criticism.63 As a result he acquired ‘copie of speech’, the art of copious expression developed by practice in amplification and variation and, especially, by the exercise of double translation. The value placed on the vernacular from Vives to Brinsley ensured that the Elizabethan version of creative writing had the status of a transferable skill, something you could carry over from Latin to English. It is true that Ascham himself, the main advocate of double translation, took rather a dim view of English, but that is not altogether surprising, since he did not live to see the Elizabethan literary renaissance which in 1568, the year of his death, had yet to begin. In certain contexts, however, he takes a different view, as when he is addressing the gentlemen and yeomen of England on the virtues of archery: And they whiche had leaste hope in latin, have bene moste boulde in englyshe: when surelye every man that is moste ready to taulke, is not moost able to wryte. He that wyll wryte well in any tongue, muste folowe thys councel of Aristotle, to speake as the common people do, to thinke as wise men do.64

It is a democratic sentiment that might have been invented with Shakespeare in mind. Perhaps it was the example of the yeoman archers of Agincourt that inspired Ascham to offer this little touch of Roger in the night. The Latin/English divide is a class distinction, but also an entirely bridgeable gap. ‘Poetry’s the speech of kings’, the teacher explains to a youthful Tony Harrison in ‘Them & [uz]’; and Harrison adds bitterly, ‘I played the drunken porter in Macbeth’.65 But Shakespeare learned to speak in both voices, moving quite effortlessly between them, as did Harrison. One reason why Shakespeare is so good is that he appears relatively late in European terms. He is able to respond to the naturalization of the classical in vernacular culture through the standard school curriculum and at the same time avoid the dead hand of prescriptive neoclassicism. Essentially, what Shakespeare 63 The concept of ‘reproduction’ within education has complex ramifications (see Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, trans. Richard Nice, 2nd edn. (London: Sage, 1990)). (This is the source of the term ‘cultural capital’.) 64 Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, p. xiv. The maxim also appears in Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, ed. G. W. Kitchin (London: J. M. Dent, 1973), 134. 65 Harrison, Selected Poems, 122.


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was taught was a process. What he learned was that the process could be absorbed while abandoning most of the rules associated with it.


To argue that sixteenth-century grammar schools encouraged textual reproduction is to imply that they discouraged originality. Indeed, many of the practices associated with the doctrine of imitation might lead the modern reader to conclude that what the Tudor education system actually promoted was plagiarism. Renaissance composition theory would also lend support to such a view. Invention, the first part of rhetoric, was not so much a matter of conjuring something out of nothing as of finding a topic from a pre-existing storehouse (or inventory) of words and things. The Erasmian principle of copia or ‘copy’ had an inbuilt tendency to encourage copying. Our modern perspective on this is somewhat contradictory. On the one hand plagiarism has pseudo-criminal status within the academy and actual criminal status outside it when the law of copyright is invoked; on the other hand academics themselves have mostly discarded Romantic notions of originality in favour of more sophisticated models of collaboration, allusion, and intertextuality. But if modern understanding of plagiarism is deeply ambiguous, so too was Renaissance thinking on the subject. The pre-Romantic and pre-copyright conditions of sixteenthcentury culture might suggest that the concepts of plagiarism and even originality did not exist.66 The term itself is relatively late and makes its first appearance in English in Jonson’s Poetaster (1601) where Crispinus (Marston) and Demetrius (Dekker) are both styled ‘plagiary’ in an indictment against them for bad writing (5.3).67 However, the concept pre-existed the term, and the word ‘theft’ is, after all, unequivocal. Even in Italy, where the doctrine of imitation was particularly 66 See Stephen Orgel, ‘The Renaissance Artist as Plagiarist’, ELH 48/4 (1981), 476–95. This view was challenged in Chistopher Ricks, ‘Plagiarism’, in Proceedings of the British Academy, lxxxxvii (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 149–68, and the case was reopened by Orgel in ‘Plagiarism and Original Sin’, in Paulina Kewes (ed.,) Plagiarism in Early Modern England (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 56–73, which also reprints Ricks’s essay. 67 Much of the documentation for attitudes to plagiarism in the period was presented in Harold Ogden White, Plagiarism and Imitation during the English Renaissance: A Study in Critical Distinctions (1935; repr. New York: Octagon, 1965), though White’s account of these attitudes seems to be at odds with the evidence he presents.

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well rooted, plagiarism was deplored, though there were, of course, differences of opinion as to what constituted literary theft. One of the most comprehensive and explicit denunciations of the practice came from Castelvetro in his commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics (1570), the first vernacular translation of that work. Castelvetro uses the terms furto, involare, rubare, and ladro, each of which signifies robbery, and says sternly, ‘But if a thief of somebody else’s invention deserves to be mocked and punished, so should the poet-thief, whose essence consists in invention and without that invention he is not a poet’.68 He then produces a black book of plagiarists which includes Boccaccio, Ariosto, Petrarch, Plautus, and Seneca. If that list seems overzealous it is nonetheless worth reflecting on Castelvetro’s understanding of ‘invention’, which looks remarkably close to its modern sense of an original, creative act. Today, the most celebrated accusation of plagiarism from the period of the English Renaissance is the one supposedly levelled at Shakespeare in Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit (1592), where he is described as ‘an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers . . . in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrie’,69 the allusion being to Horace’s Aesopian fable of the crow who borrowed some feathers from a peaco*ck and passed the plumage off as her own. Yet by 1640, when the term ‘plagiarism’ was better established, Shakespeare could be presented in exactly the opposite light. Leonard Digges writes in a prefatory verse to the edition of the Poems published in that year that he doth not borrow, One phrase from Greekes, nor Latines imitate, Nor once from vulgar Languages Translate, Nor Plagiari-like from others gleane . . .70

There is certainly a difference between borrowing from the ancients and imitating your contemporaries, which is what the ‘upstart crow’ passage seems to be complaining about, and the indignation may well be directed at Shakespeare’s status as a common player daring to put pen to paper in the first place, rather than against any supposed literary theft. Actors were known for their feathered hats, as Hamlet tells 68 Lodovico Castelvetro, Poetica d’Aristotele vulgarizzata e sposta, ed. Werther Romani, 2 vols. (Rome: Laterza, 1978–9), i. 289 (my trans.). The terms ‘plagiarism’ and ‘plagiarist’ (plagio, plagiario) were not used in Italian until the mid-seventeenth century. 69 The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the Oxford Edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1997), 3321–2. 70 Ibid., 3358.


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Horatio: ‘Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers . . . get me a fellowship in a cry of players’ (3.2.263-5).71 Katherine Duncan-Jones has also argued that the gibe at Shakespeare came from Nashe, not Greene, and that he is attacking the same writer, or writers, that he had attacked three years earlier in the preface to Greene’s Menaphon as ‘Alcumists of eloquence, who (mounted on the stage of arrogance) thinke to out-brave better pennes with the swelling bumbast of bragging blanke verse’.72 The fact that, a moment later, Nashe also alludes to the fabled crow in his reference to the ‘penne that . . . in disguised array vaunts Ovids and Plutarchs plumes as theyr owne’ would certainly help to link the two passages. Whether or not the ‘upstart crow’ remark came from the hand of Nashe rather than Greene, it came from that literary grouping, and it is quite suggestive in terms of how we might see Shakespeare fashioning himself as a writer early in his career.73 After all, the Menaphon preface is also the source of Nashe’s mockery of the old Hamlet play. If Shakespeare had been exposed to the double charge of plagiarism, or lack of originality at least, and ‘commonness’ in the early 1590s, then his own Hamlet, at the end of the decade, might be considered the ultimate rejoinder to that. In the mid-1590s, however, after the deaths of Greene and Marlowe and before the appearance of Jonson, Nashe and Shakespeare were the leading professional writers in London. How do they stand in relation to each other? The ‘upstart crow’ attack had picked on 3 Henry VI, but in the same year Nashe had enthusiastically celebrated the success of 1 Henry VI. There is a Cambridge cliquishness in the resentment towards Shakespeare (and perhaps Kyd in the case of the original Hamlet), traces of which remain in the Parnassus plays, but Shakespeare and Kyd have also been described, reasonably enough, as associate members of the ‘university wits’.74 In fact, when we push aside social distinctions, Shakespeare and Nashe seem to occupy a quite similar creative space; not so much in terms of content, since a good deal of Nashe’s writing is content-free, as in terms of stylistic 71 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from his Life (London: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 47. 72 Nashe, Works, ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, iii. 311; Duncan-Jones, Ungentle Shakespeare, 49. See also Patricia Parker, Shakespeare from the Margins: Language, Culture, Context (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 216 and n. 73 This provides a context, though a slightly puzzling one, for Shakespeare’s collaboration with the third man in this group, George Peele, on Titus Andronicus (see Ch. 4). 74 See G. K. Hunter, English Drama 1586–1642: The Age of Shakespeare (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 22.

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practice. Speed, agility, spontaneity, fluency; these are the key elements. When Jonson wrote of Shakespeare’s flowing ‘with that facility that sometime it was necessary he should be stopped’, he might have been describing Nashe.75 And when he adds, ‘His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too’, we might be listening to the censorious voice of Gabriel Harvey. When Nashe himself writes of Harvey that ‘his invention is over-weapond; he hath some good words, but he cannot writhe them and tosse them to and fro nimbly, or so bring them about, that hee maye make one streight thrust at his enemies face’, he anticipates the apocryphal tales of the wit combats between Shakespeare and Jonson in which Jonson is figured as a stately Spanish galleon and Shakespeare as a fast-moving English man-ofwar.76 But this is not to digress into the well-mapped territory of the Shakespeare/Jonson antithesis. We turn to Jonson for a sense of what is distinctive about Shakespeare, who left no manifestos. Nashe, on the other hand, provides us with a running self-commentary, and this, too, can help to define Shakespeare. Nashe’s proudest claim is to authorial independence, originality: ‘the vaine which I have (be it a median vaine, or a madde man) is of my owne begetting, and cals no man father in England but my selfe’.77 He is uniquely versatile, having ‘written in all sorts of humors privately, I am perswaded, more than any yoong man of my age in England’; he despises the commonplaces of ‘Licosthenes reading (which showes plodding & no wit)’ and instead prizes spontaneity: ‘give me the man whose extemporall veine in any humour will excell our greatest Art-maisters deliberate thoughts; whose inventions, quicker than his eye, will challenge the prowdest Rhetoritian to the contention of like perfection with like expedition’.78 This last announcement returns us to the preface to Menaphon, where it follows immediately from the remark about the ‘disguised array’ of ‘Ovids and Plutarch’s plumes’.79 The question that it presents to us now is whether, in promoting an ideal of originality, spontaneity, and inventiveness, Nashe was effectively writing against the academy and whether Shakespeare was positioning himself in the same way.

See n. 58. Nashe, Works, ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, i. 282; on the wit combats see Thomas Fuller, ‘The History of the Worthies of England’ [1662], in D. H. Craig (ed.), Ben Jonson: The Critical Heritage, 1599–1798 (London and New York: Routledge, 1990), 237. 77 78 Nashe, Works, ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, i. 319. Ibid. i. 320; iii. 123. 79 Ibid. iii. 312. 75 76


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Whatever Nashe’s objections may have been to the non-graduate upstart Shakespeare, he had much greater and more famous objections to the academic Harvey, who, as the son of an Essex rope-maker, was also, conveniently, another upstart. The preface to Menaphon, written in 1589, predates the quarrel with Harvey, but the terms of its style manifesto are precisely those that he later used to attack him. ‘Art-maisters’, echoing ‘Master of Arts’, is to be understood here as ‘rhetorician’, and challenging ‘the prowdest Rhetoritian’ in the person of Gabriel Harvey is just what Nashe was to do a few years later. This does not mean that Nashe despised all forms of imitation. He was certainly acquainted with De Copia, and later in the preface, as a reassurance that he does intend to praise some writers, he says that ‘I will propound to your learned imitation those men of importe that have laboured with credite in this laudable kind of translation’,80 the first of whom is Erasmus. This kind of work, clothing ‘our Greeke writers in the robes of the ancient Romanes’ is in contrast to the ‘servile imitation’ of barbaric modern tragedy. But the key term in this passage is probably ‘Art’ itself, here weighted with censure. This is how Harvey read Nashe when hostilities opened, and he used it to present him as ignorant of imitation and an enthusiast for ‘nature’: But he must crave a little more acquaintance at the hand of Arte, and serve an apprentishood of some nine or ten yeares in the shop of curious Imitation (for his wild Phantasie will not be allowed to maintaine comparison with curious Imitation) before he will be hable to performe the twentith or fortith part of that sufficiency, whereunto the cranknesse of his Imagination already aspireth ...

Then moving into sarcastic mode: The witt of this & that odd Modernist is their owne; & no such minerall of richest Art as praegnant Nature, the plentifullest woombe of rare Invention, and exquisite Elocution. Whuist Art! and Nature advaunce thy precious Selfe in thy most gorgeous and magnificent Robes!81

Harvey’s assertion, paradoxically, is that it is nature not art that makes Nashe’s writing so showy (he calls his style ‘garish and piebald’). Nashe in return claims that Harvey’s own style is so saturated in the work of other writers that it is synthetic and characterless; this is the Nashe, Works, ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, iii. 316; on De Copia see iii. 6. Harvey, ‘Pierce’s Supererogation’ [1593], in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, ii. 276–7. 80 81

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nemesis of too great a devotion to art. You have composition learned by precept and imitation, or you have the work of invention, inspired by nature. Art, in this (one-sided) formulation, is the enemy of creative writing. It is not difficult to see where Shakespeare stands in these lines of opposition, nor is it necessary to labour the point that he is aligned with Nashe on the basis both of the qualities Nashe claims for himself and those attributed to him by his enemy.82 Nashe’s over-coloured or ‘garish’ style is Shakespeare’s densely figurative language; his ‘piebald’ (mongrel, motley) style is Shakespeare’s double voice, mixing high and low, combining genres. Shakespeare certainly read Nashe, and with a great deal more sympathy than Harvey. The verbal traces of his reading are small but extensive. The effect of Nashe on Shakespeare’s own conception of expressive technique is more difficult to estimate, but it seems likely that he saw in Nashe a useful model on which to construct himself as a poet of nature, making at the same time some capital out of his supposed educational difficulties. So was Shakespeare writing against the academy? The answer to this question depends on how narrowly the academy is defined, since several of the fathers of sixteenthcentury education could be cited in support of the precedence of nature. Erasmus appealed to nature’s variety to justify the stylistic principle of amplificatio, as we have seen, and Thomas Cooper’s AngloLatin Thesaurus cites Cicero himself to the effect that ‘Nature and witte be of great efficacie [and] healpe very much to eloquence’.83 But the most telling verdict comes from Quintilian in the section of his book that deals with imitation: ‘The greatest qualities of the orator are beyond all imitation . . . talent, invention, force, facility, and all the qualities which are independent of art’.84 This is an observation that applies equally to the poet, and the terms Quintilian uses (ingenium, inventio, vis, facilitas) underline the importance of speed and spontaneity, as well as offering a fair description of the writing styles of both Nashe and Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare seems quite deliberately to break many of the rules that Quintilian lays down for 82 The many echoes of Nashe’s writing in Shakespeare have deen documented in a large number of articles by J. I. M. Tobin (see Stuart Gillespie, Shakespeare’s Books: A Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Sources (London and New Brunswick, NJ: Athlone, 2001), 384–9. My own book, Elizabethan Grotesque (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980) was also concerned with the relationship between Nashe and Shakespeare. 83 See Baldwin, Shakspere’s ‘Small Latine’, ii. 234. 84 Institutio oratoria, 10. 2. 13.


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composition, as far as the underlying principles of creativity are concerned there would be no dispute between writer and teacher. If either Nashe (explicitly) or Shakespeare (implicitly) adopts an anti-academic posture, it should be seen as a rejection of the more mechanically prescriptive aspects of the academy, not as an attack on the originating ideals of sixteenth-century education. Quintilian did, after all, claim that the point of studying rhetoric was to acquire the power of improvisation. Quintilian’s term ingenium can be translated flatly as ‘talent’, but its meanings also include ‘genius’ and ‘wit’. Thomas Cooper translates it from Cicero as ‘wit’. Wit is not opposed to rhetoric, and in its sense of ‘invention’ it could be seen as part of rhetoric, but what it does is to supply a ludic dimension to the subject. This may have been recognized, rather hopefully, in John Brinsley’s Ludus Literarius, a title that figures the classroom as playground.85 The extraordinary fascination with verbal wit in this period led to a very high degree of selfconsciousness with regard to linguistic usage and this is reflected in the amount of stylistic self-commentary in Elizabethan writing. This is an obvious feature in Nashe, but throughout Shakespeare too there is inbuilt commentary on the processes of composition. To whatever extent he may have been doing what came naturally, he was also extremely interested in the actual business of creative writing. Shakespeare’s characters inhabit a world of words, to adapt the title of John Florio’s Italian-English dictionary. This has been said before, but in rather impressionistic terms. In fact, the metaphor points to one of the defining characteristics of the cultural moment at which Shakespeare was working. The intensely verbal nature of sixteenthcentury education helped to create a literary culture in which language itself could constitute its own metadrama. There is a pervasive sense of the material presence of words, the processes of composition were imagined as real, physical activities, the language arts themselves, as opposed to the literary creations they produced, provided Elizabethans with a virtual reality. So we find Nashe reconstructing his purely verbal encounters with Harvey in terms of specific, pugilistic manoeuvres, and Ascham imagining Terence’s drama as a well-stocked retail outlet, the words as wares,

85 The title refers to the Roman elementary school, but Brinsley presumably also wants to preserve the sense of ‘play’.

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chosen so purelie, placed so orderly, and all his stuffe so neetlie packed up, and wittely compassed in everie place, as, by all wise mens judgement, he is counted the cunninger workeman, and to have his shop, for the rowme that is in it, more finely appointed, and trimlier ordered, than Plautus is. 86

The figuring of language as saleable goods was quite common; Harvey also, as we have just seen, refers to ‘the shop of curious Imitation’, though he is thinking there principally of the craftsman’s workshop, of process rather than product.87 Observations of this kind create a sense of the physical properties of language. Puttenham takes this a step further in his account of the rhetorical figures, which are themselves figured as actual human types: prozeugma is ‘the ringleader’ and hyperbaton ‘the trespasser’, climax is ‘the marching figure’ and antitheton ‘the quareller’, paralepsis ‘the passager’ and gnome ‘the director’ or ‘sage sayer’.88 Turning the figures into characters, Puttenham draws the curtain on a ludic textual world, peopled by performing types. The play that draws most deeply on the Elizabethan obsession with the language arts is Love’s Labour’s Lost, Shakespeare’s own ludus literarius. While it does not resemble anything that Nashe himself wrote, and attempts to identify the characters with the participants in contemporary style debates are surely beside the point, this is the play that represents Shakespeare’s fullest engagement with the Nashean world of words. Here indeed language is action, though not in the troubled, defensive sense that it later becomes in Hamlet, and the argument is Shakespeare’s own invention. Like other of his plays for which no source has been identified, it is highly self-conscious about playmaking itself and about the creative process in general. Released from the narrative discipline provided by a source plot, Shakespeare seems to have allowed himself the freedom of self-commentary. The context of Love’s Labour’s Lost, however, is unique, for it is in a quite literal sense academic. Hamlet may have been to a real university, but the young noblemen of Navarre (and Armado) are the only characters in Shakespeare to be called ‘students’. The academy they construct for themselves—a French academy, in fact, though there may be no direct link to La Primaudaye—requires them to vow that they will devote three years to the study of philosophy, during which time they will have Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, 287. Cf. Erasmus on amplification: ‘This is just like displaying some object for sale . . . unwrapping it and opening it out’ (‘Copia’, trans. Knott, in Collected Works, xxiv. 572). 88 Puttenham, English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker, 164, 168–9, 207–8, 210–11, 232, 235–6. 86 87


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no contact with women. So the play is partly about the purpose of education, or scholarship and research, at least: ‘What is the end of study, let me know?’, Berowne asks, adding quizzically, ‘Things hid and barred, you mean, from common sense?’ (1.1.55, 57) It is also about verbal creativity and linguistic value. And it is ultimately about the relationship of both academic study and literature to life. On the face of it Love’s Labour’s Lost would seem to have little in common with Hamlet. Not so much night thoughts as l’écume des jours, froth on the daydream. But Shakespeare’s other play about student dilemmas also focuses these on issues of expression, even more completely, in fact, than in the later play. Where in Hamlet these concerns are directed inwards, towards truth, in Love’s Labour’s Lost they are directed outwards, towards sex and the life-cycle. At the start of the play the nobles appear to be committed to a Hamlet-like path of rejection of common pursuits and the active life. This is an anti-humanist stance, since it involves a denial of the link between the language arts and civic responsibility. Indeed, it implies that the academic project they have in mind is something altogether superior to mere rhetoric. What happens is that sex is introduced as a third term in the humanist argument about the contemplative and the active life. Where Hamlet sets his face against both rhetoric and sex in order to concentrate on the fundamental dilemma of acting or merely being, in Love’s Labour’s Lost the nobles return to the social world in rhapsodies of eroticized verbal play. Language in this play functions in the same way as the posteriors of the baboon or the plumage of the peaco*ck, as sexual advertising.89 The humanist concern with purposeful speech is always present in Love’s Labour’s Lost, but it is resolved by moving the question into new territory. The young men are reconnected to the active life not through the productive world of work but, from the male point of view, the less arduous business of reproduction. This is to provide a retrospective context for the play’s opening speech. Love’s Labour’s Lost is on one level an inebriated essay on matters of expression, but it also sets out with an appeal to life and a challenge to death:

89 On Armado, Holofernes, and ‘the posteriors of this day’ (5.1.84) see Parker, Shakespeare from the Margins, 31. Parker discusses the play’s erotic verbal wit more fully (and superbly) in ‘Preposterous Reversals: Love’s Labour’s Lost’, Modern Language Quarterly, 54 (1993), 435–82.

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Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live registered upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death . . . Our court shall be a little academe, Still and contemplative in living art.

As this male academic project, which is designed to transcend the facts of mortality, starts to fall apart, Love’s Labour’s Lost seems to operate through the easy formula of nature against art. But while the play’s orientation towards sex and the life-cycle might be understood in those terms, they would need some qualification. Much turns upon the nicely ambiguous mission statement of the French academy: ‘Still and contemplative in living art’. As the play’s editors have pointed out, ‘living art’ refers to the Stoic ars vivendi, which would require the quelling of the ‘affections’ or passions as the nobles intend, but it also suggests that art itself is a source of vitality.This second sense seems to point to the principle of enargeia and the living quality of expression discussed at the start of this book. But in that case the phrase must surely have the status of an oxymoron, since contemplation is certainly the antithesis of action, and therefore of life.90 The repeated references to ‘life’ on the part of the nobles are in fact resoundingly vacuous. ‘Living in philosophy’, as Dumaine puts it, demands detachment, not engagement. Language, on the other hand, retains its vitality in Love’s Labour’s Lost, from its emphasis on the livingness of speech91 as well as from the fact that throughout the play it carries a sexual charge, constantly making a mockery of the nobles’ ambitious vows of abstinence. The ‘great feast of language’ tends more to orgy than banquet, despite the absence of consummation for the academicians. What Navarre and his courtiers call art is indeed opposed to nature, but the fact that language energetically assumes a life of its own in this play means that that remains very much a part of nature.92 90 See Love’s Labour’s Lost, ed. H. R. Woudhuysen (Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 113; Ruth Nevo, Comic Transformations in Shakespeare (London and New York: Methuen, 1980), 72. See also Rosalie Colie, Shakespeare’s ‘Living Art’ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), 31–67. 91 ‘Breath’ is a metonym for speech at 1.1.5; (see Love’s Labour’s Lost, ed. John Kerrigan (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982) ). It is echoed at 4.3.65 and 5.2.20 and 5. 2.727. The opposition between ‘the oral world of speech’ and ‘the silent world of books’ has been discussed in Terence Hawkes, ‘Shakespeare’s Talking Animals’, Shakespeare Survey, 24 (1971), 51. 92 The fine study by William C. Carroll, The Great Feast of Language in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976) does, however, argue against the view that the play rejects art for life or nature (see esp. p. 9).


Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?

It may be nearer the point to see the informing principle of Love’s Labour’s Lost as lying in an opposition not so much between nature and art as between nature and law. The oaths that the courtiers swear at the beginning of the play, against nature and ‘necessity’, result in them all being ‘perjured’ and ‘forsworn’ by the end of Act 4, as nature reasserts its supremacy over rule and precept. The text that stands quite visibly in the background here is Erasmus’ Praise of Folly. Dame Folly is from the start aligned with nature, and then with the emotional and sexual life, which is explicitly set against Stoic teaching that we should be governed solely by the dictates of reason. This creates a stepping stone in the middle section of the work to some relatively straightforward satire on those misguided individuals, typically academics, who imagine themselves to be wise while denying nature. Here Erasmus indulges in some pleasant humanist sarcasm over the scholastic devotion to theory. All this has obvious parallels with Shakespeare’s play, but the point at which Erasmus’ text seems to engage most directly with Shakespeare’s is here: So amongst mortal men those who strive after wisdom are the furthest from happiness; they are in fact doubly stupid simply because they ignore the fact that they were born men, try to adopt the life of the immortal gods, and like the giants would rebel against nature, with the sciences for their engines of war.93

The passage is echoed by Navarre when he addresses his courtiers as ‘brave conquerors . . . | That war against your own affections’ (1.1.8-9) and in Berowne’s more sensible observation that ‘every man with his affects is born | Not by might mastered, but by special grace’ (1.1.149–50). It comes immediately before Erasmus’ account of the figure of the wise fool, who would assume an especially significant role in Shakespearean drama. The Christian aspect to Berowne’s remarks may also derive from Erasmus. The final section of Praise of Folly is deeply Pauline and it is to St Paul that Berowne turns at the end of his long speech in Act 4, echoing Romans 13:8: It is religion to be thus forsworn, For charity itself fulfils the law, And who can sever love from charity? (4.3.339–41)

Berowne’s sly conflation of eros and caritas would suggest that he too has adopted the mask of Folly, while at the end of his own work 93

Erasmus, Praise of Folly, trans. Radice, ed. Levi, 116.

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Erasmus has put that mask aside to speak in his own voice, but the humanist character of Berowne’s speech, with its plea that we should ‘lose our oaths to find ourselves’, and his role from the outset as the spokesman for law over nature argue in my view a profound association between the two works. The tension or conflict between law and nature in Love’s Labour’s Lost is intimately connected with the subject of creativity and the language arts, as indeed it is in Erasmus. The theme is central in Praise of Folly, but it also reappears in his educational writings. In conjunction with his appeal to nature at the start of De Copia, both he and other humanist educators stressed the importance of practice and usage over obedience to rules in language learning. Erasmus’ position on this has been described in explicitly legal terms by Richard Halpern, who argues that he ‘rejects a juridical conception of language which sees it as a collection of grammatical imperatives’.94 Under this model, ‘language use is defined by obedience or disobedience to the laws of grammar’. Some of the implications of this statement would steer us away from the point, and it is also true that language acquisition is not the same as creative writing, but in a play that is sufficiently concerned with education to ask, explicitly, ‘What is the end of study?’ the humanist emphasis on nature and practice supplies an important context for the answer that it implicitly offers. The figure who poses that question, Berowne, probably comes closer to the status of authorial surrogate, in Jonsonian style, than any other character in Shakespeare. His views on study are determined partly by his own mental agility, and when Rosaline tells the Princess at the start of Act 2 that ‘His eye begets occasion for his wit’, and admires his ‘sweet and voluble . . . discourse’, she could be describing Shakespeare himself: ‘conceit’s expositor’ (2.1.72), as she also calls Berowne. Rosaline is already half in love, and biased, but she identifies the quality of Berowne’s imagination quite precisely. Spontaneity and timeliness, a kind of brilliant opportunism, is what she points to. Another version of the same idea is Enobarbus’ assertion that ‘every time | Serves for the matter that is then born in’t’ in Antony and Cleopatra (2.2.9–10). Her reference to the eye picks up one of the central images of the play, which becomes, in the 94 Richard Halpern, The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), 31. Erasmus is referring to how pupils should learn to speak Latin. Similarly, for criticism and interpretation Mulcaster says : ‘As for the understanding of writers: that c*ms by years and ripenesse of wit, not by rule of grammer’ (Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 248).


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phrase from Longaville’s sonnet, ‘the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye’, the most sublime alternative to academic discourse.95 More mundanely, it echoes Nashe’s extemporal performer whose ‘inventions’ are ‘quicker than his eye’. And ‘wit’, the end of the creative process, which Nashe had associated with an ideal of spontaneity (contrast the ‘Artmaisters deliberate thoughts’), is a term constantly tossed backwards and forwards in Love’s Labour’s Lost. In no other play of Shakespeare’s does the word appear so frequently. Rosaline’s account of Berowne’s imagination is, on the face of it, thoroughly antiacademic, but Berowne himself, who reminds his fellow courtiers that ‘these oaths and laws will prove an idle scorn’, and professes instead the virtues of extemporality, remains very much in tune with the humanist concepts of language and composition that shaped Tudor education. The alliance between language and nature in Love’s Labour’s Lost is also formed at the most fundamental level, that of breeding. This is the territory of the early Sonnets, and the play does indeed open with a flourish on the theme of ‘devouring time’, which has direct parallels with the Sonnets.96 The difference is that here it is philosophy rather than poetry—a ‘nigg*rding’ of life, in fact—that is said to offer the promise of eternity. The futility of this scheme is summed up in Berowne’s dismissal of the proposals for the academy as ‘barren tasks’. By contrast, one trope from the Sonnets that reappears in Love’s Labour’s Lost is the representation of progeny as wealth. The play adds to this the further Renaissance commonplace that figures words as coins to create a nexus of breeding, money, and verbal invention. The character most addicted to neologism is Armado, a ‘man of fire-new words’, struck from ‘a mint of phrases’ (1.1.176, 163), who is responsible for the monstrous ‘annothanize’, as well as the joke about ‘remuneration’ (4.1.69). Armado has some Nashean touches to him, such as the appeal to an ‘extemporal’ muse at the end of Act 1, and the ‘-ize’ coinage is another. Coinage and borrowing from other languages were the central issues in the late sixteenth-century debate about the status of the English language. They were also an issue in the Nashe–Harvey quarrel, and Nashe was eventually moved to defend himself against 95

Cf. ‘By the heart’s still rhetoric disclosèd with eyes’ (2.1.229). On breeding see John Kerrigan, ‘Between Michelangelo and Petrarch: Shakespeare’s Sonnets of Art’, in On Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature: Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), esp. pp. 34–6. Kerrigan provides an artful context for the natural theme. 96

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critics of his ‘boystrous compound wordes, and the often coyning of Italionate verbes which end all in Ize’. His defence of the latter is particularly interesting. He explains that mummy is nothing else but mans flesh long buried and broyled in the burning sands of Arabia. Hereupon I have taken up this phrase of Jerusalems Mummianized earth, (as much as to say as Jerusalems earth manured with mans flesh.) Express who can the same substance so briefly in any other word but that [my emphasis].97

The last remark might almost be a cue for countless later commentators on Shakespeare’s own verbal invention. As for compound words, Love’s Labour’s Lost is awash with them, and they have been helpfully gathered in an appendix to the Arden edition of the play. The point here, however, is not to identify certain characters with certain stylistic positions. The play sends up every kind of verbal extravagance and affectation, but at the same time revels in the sheer volatility of language. That volatility is what Shakespeare responded to, I would argue, in Nashe’s writing; it permeates the play and is not associated with a particular individual. With regard to Armado, it would be mistaken to see his linguistic enthusiasms as evidence of an artificiality disconnected from nature. He is certainly in thrall to language’s power of self-propagation, but within nature he is himself very much an agent of propagation. It is Armado who gets the dairymaid pregnant. There is, moreover, a fairly thin line between the so-called ‘fantastics’ and the nobles in this play. Both groups stage performances in the masque of Muscovites and the pageant of the Nine Worthies, and they all appear to be participating in the same one-day poetry workshop. Love’s Labour’s Lost is where Shakespeare puts on display the tools and materials of his trade, and as well as exploring the relations between law and nature, nature and language, this is also the play that offers creative-writing instruction from a practising schoolmaster. Both Holofernes and Berowne speak up for originality and the virtues of invention. Berowne adopts a nonchalant Nashean stance towards academic authority in his dismissal of commonplace reading: ‘Small have continual plodders ever won, | Save base authority from others’ books’ (1.1.86–7).98 Here he distances himself from his fellow courtier Nashe, Works, ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, ii. 183. Cf. ‘universal plodding poisons up | The nimble spirits of the arteries’, in the unrevised version of Berowne’s speech at 4.3.287 (‘Additional Passages’, ll. 10–11); also Nashe’s reference to ‘the ploddinger sort of unlearned Zionists’ (Works, ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, ii. 183; See also ii. 123). 97 98


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Longaville, who calls helplessly for ‘some authority how to proceed’ (4.3.285), as well as from Armado, who asks Moth to provide him with ‘more authority’ on the subject of great men in love, and who, absurdly, hopes to find ‘some mighty precedent’ to justify his fling with Jaquenetta (1.2.65, 111). So in the case of Holofernes, the schoolmaster himself, we might expect an inflexible devotion to the tabulated precept. He has certainly taken the principles of De Copia to heart and may, indeed, have prompted John Hoskyns’s reference to the ‘schoolmaster foaming out synonymies’.99 As for poetry, his notion of the extemporal is rather to ‘save up’ his painfully alliterative compositions for ‘the mellowing of occasion’. But when it comes to anyone else’s verse, in this case Berowne’s sonnet to Rosaline, Holofernes turns into the magisterial critic, almost Leavis-like in his judgement on the hollowness of his efforts: Here are only numbers ratified, but for the elegancy, facility and golden cadence of poesy, caret. Ovidius Naso was the man; and why indeed ‘Naso’, but for smelling out the odoriferous flowers of fancy, the jerks of invention? Imitari is nothing. So doth the hound his master, the ape his keeper, the tired horse his ride. (4.2.121–7)

He then tells Nathaniel that he will have another go at Berowne’s creative inadequacies before dinner at the home of one of his pupils, a suitably mellowed occasion, one assumes, ‘where I will prove those verses to be very unlearned, neither savouring of poetry, wit, nor invention’. Holofernes seems here to be following Quintilian’s checklist of the prerequisites for true poetry (ingenium, inventio, vis, facilitas), and at the same time repeating Castelvetro’s more contemporary insistence on the vital importance of invention, without which ‘he is not a poet’. The fact that Holofernes’ own verse is utterly derivative, and his sweeping dismissal of imitation quite unconvincing, is not really relevant.100 His core message is sound, and it is in keeping with the ludic spirit of Love’s Labour’s Lost that the weaker spots of the character who comes closest to acting as Shakespeare’s spokesman should be exposed by the play’s most ludicrous figure. So what answer can be given to the questions still left dangling: Berowne’s ‘What is the end of study?’ and the one posed by the title of this chapter? Is there, indeed, any connection between them? We have the evidence of the humanist educational programme and the curricu99 100

Hoskyns, Directions for Speech and Style, ed. Hudson, 24. See Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid, 87.

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lum that Shakespeare would be likely to have followed at Stratford. We have the evidence of the play that devotes most attention to study and creative writing, as well as the example of Shakespeare’s contemporary Thomas Nashe. I think that the best way to attempt an answer to these questions is to point out what is probably the central paradox about Shakespeare, that he has consistently been represented as the poet of nature, but is at the same time a highly rhetorical writer, addicted to all kinds of verbal artifice, ingenuity, and experimentation. This paradox becomes less puzzling as it becomes clearer that the humanist education to which he was exposed aimed to align the language arts—and these certainly include imitation—with an ideal of nature and the natural. This was a central aspect of Erasmus’ thought, and Love’s Labour’s Lost is a perfect reflection both of his defence of nature in Praise of Folly and the principles of linguistic versatility illustrated by De Copia. It is also sustained by Quintilian’s point that the end of study is improvisation. But while this is perfectly coherent as an educational ideal, it would hardly be sufficient to prevent a young writer from adopting an anti-academic stance in order to position himself in the market place as the extemporal voice of nature. Nashe did this, while continuing to venerate Erasmus and other humanists, as Harvey spotted. In response to the ‘upstart crow’ smear, Shakespeare saw in Nashe a useful model for turning that imputed commonness to his own advantage. The poet of nature was partly self-constructed. So when Berowne deplores the tendency of academic study to shun common sense and boasts instead, provocatively, that he is speaking up for ‘barbarism’ (1.1.112), we may suspect an element of posturing, as indeed we may in the case of that modern barbarian Tony Harrison. His mannered condemnation of study, ‘Light, seeking light doth light of light beguile’ is self-contradicting, figured to the point of obfuscation, and Navarre provides an effective rejoinder when he points out ‘How well he’s read to reason against reading’ (1.1.77, 94). His eventual declaration in favour of russet and kersey, as opposed to silk and taffeta, in matters of expression (language being the dress of thought) still has the air of being a fashion statement. It is the function of the final songs from winter and spring, which are unambiguously the voice of nature, to project another world of russet simplicity beyond the edges of the play. Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with the gnomic utterance, ‘The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo’, and a parting of the ways. Mercury here may be understood to represent the messenger of death,


Did Shakespeare Study Creative Writing?

Marcade, who will not in fact be defeated by the creative power of language celebrated in the songs of Apollo. It is those songs that we have been listening to. To say that they were in part inspired by the humanist curriculum in the language arts is not to elevate every Tudor Holofernes to divine status. Quintilian himself recognized that imitation had to be supplemented by invention and that originality could not be taught.101 But it is also true to say that Shakespeare could not have avoided studying creative writing, assuming that he went to school at all. The end of study was composition and performance, which is exactly what we get in Love’s Labour’s Lost when the plans for the academy are quietly shelved. Reading was for writing, criticism was directed towards verbal practice; this was the process impressed upon him. Russ McDonald has concluded that Shakespeare ‘was the ideal pupil of the Tudor schoolmasters, the student who absorbed the precepts of his teachers and transcended their comparatively limited systems by putting their recommendations to artistic use’.102 This is well said, but it perhaps assumes too much docility on his part. Bearing in mind the number of precepts that he actively flouts, and bearing in mind too that the schools aimed to produce employable adults, not poets, I would rather conclude that Shakespeare, along with the entire Elizabethan literary renaissance, to which he is central, was the product of a creative abuse of the Tudor education system. See Institutio oratoria 10. 2. 4, 10. 2. 1, and n. 80; Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid, 87. Russ McDonald, Shakespeare and the Arts of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 28–9. The section is titled ‘Humanism and the Power of Language’. 101 102


Both Sides Now 3 . 1 SPEECH - WRITING

The first two chapters of this book have been concerned with speech and with writing, but drama in general, and a rhetorically informed drama like Shakespeare’s in particular, is clearly a matter of speechwriting. Those actors who were illiterate would have bypassed the written page, learning their speeches from group readings in a suitable hostelry, but there is no doubt that Shakespeare’s plays were composed in writing before they were performed as speech. This is one characteristic that drama shares with the academic lecture, though the forms diverge rather notably in other ways, not least in their construction as dialogue and monologue. In either case, the term ‘speech-writing’ sounds slightly contradictory, as it seems almost to advertise the redundancy of the writing stage. If writing is a secondary activity, then why should it precede utterance? Although the erosion of memory provides an easy enough answer to the question, there remains a sense that the writing of a speech prior to its delivery must be something laboured and impure. The conflict between the oral and the written was Derrida’s original theme. Inserting a postmodern slash between speech and writing, he reversed the traditional priority of the one over the other and challenged the conceptualization of writing as a secondary activity. In the beginning was the text. If this were so, any discomfort with the term ‘speech-writing’ would of course be unnecessary. The issue is essentially a philosophical one, which cannot appropriately be pursued here, and I raise it in order to point out that postmodern and early modern perspectives on the subject are very different from each other. In the sixteenth century rhetoric still retained much of its original oral character, and this meant that a lot of what went on in the Tudor classroom, including writing, was directed towards speech. This is why Mulcaster was such an enthusiastic promoter of drama as an educational aid. So the concept of speech-writing would have seemed natural


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not because Tudor schoolmasters conceived the world as a text in Derridean terms, but because affective speech was defined as the principal educational objective and one that might be developed by other kinds of technical assistance. The very high profile of rhetoric in early modern education stems from the belief that structured speech is an instrument of power which achieves its ends by moving, ravishing, or overwhelming the listener.1 This is a Roman legacy, and after a quick outline of the rhetoric syllabus of antiquity Roland Barthes offered this view: We can see how far such pedagogy forces speech: speech is beset on all sides, expelled from the student’s body, as if there were a native inhibition to speak and it required a whole technique, a whole education to draw it out of silence, and as if this speech, learned at last, conquered at last, represented a good ‘object relation’ with the world, a real mastery of the world and of men.2

The notion that speech might represent ‘a good “object relation” with the world’ is the antithesis of Derrida’s ‘il n’y a pas de hors-texte’, but what is more striking about the passage is the equally unDerridean notion of speech as expression in its most literal, physiological sense as something pressed out from the body of the individual. The object of speech is power over others, but its source is an inner core of being. At the same time Barthes leaves us in no doubt that the power is itself the product of another power, that of the pedagogue. The passage is sufficiently figurative for us to understand ‘expression’ as the cruel press of physical pain. In considering whether Shakespeare studied creative writing my argument was directed towards poetic composition, and since to a modern sensibility the very term ‘creative’ is likely (in an educational context) to carry associations of spontaneity and play, a picture of the Elizabethan schoolroom as quite a liberal environment may have emerged. The ludic atmosphere of Love’s Labour’s Lost may have added to this impression. But this would all be rather misleading. Apart from the fact that the lessons were reinforced by corporal punishment, which is what Barthes may have been thinking of in a Roman context, some of the composition exercises were devoted to sterner stuff than poetry. In the higher classes, as we saw, Cicero’s orations were intro1 I have discussed this more fully in The Power of Eloquence and English Renaissance Literature (Hemel Hempstead and New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992); see esp. pp. 8–12, 24–34. 2 Barthes, The Semiotic Challenge, trans. Howard, 25–6.

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duced and declamations practised. After verse-writing came speechwriting. All these skills were learned with labour and pain, while the practice of declamation added an agonistic or competitive element to the business of composition. The object of a speech is to persuade, but also to defeat an opponent. The point that eloquence is power would have been driven home by the Elizabethan education system and it emerges as the informing principle of the first really memorable drama of the period, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine.3 In that play ‘words are swords’ and rhetoric an entire armoury: eloquence is a force that you can mobilize against your enemies to crush them. But the agonistic character of Elizabethan speech-writing produced another quite different effect. This is the ability to see things from different points of view. As the speech maker you may be focused and one-sided, but as the audience of any contested speech you will be aware that there are two sides to the question. You will also be witness to a dramatic event. And if Marlowe aligns himself with the speech maker, at least initially, then Shakespeare adopts the perspective of the audience. The antique style of Shakespearean eulogy which claimed for him an English devotion to fair play or, a little more neutrally, something like generosity or multiplicity, is really pointing to this aspect of his drama. More recent criticism reconstructed this aspect of Shakespeare in political terms, but also largely ignored its rhetorical character. Reviewing some of the contributions to the historicist and materialist turn of Shakespeare Studies in the 1980s and after, Kiernan Ryan has commented: ‘In order to square a modern rereading of Shakespeare with the demand for historical plausibility, we need first to contextualize the strategies of language and form that dictate how the plays conceive and judge their world.’4 This is exactly what the present chapter aims to do. It will involve a tour of one particular aspect of Elizabethan speech-writing and its classical antecedents, and it will mean leaving behind questions to do with the oral and the written. It will lead us instead in the direction of structure and plot and their relation to what might be called, in a precise rather than a loose way, the problematic character of Shakespearean drama. If Love’s Labour’s Lost gave us language at play, the next section will be more like hard work. It should, however, help to recontextualize a central strand of modern English Studies in terms of a much older literary and academic practice. 3 4

See Rhodes, Power of Eloquence, 69–117. Kiernan Ryan, Shakespeare, 3rd edn. (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2002), 25.


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For much of the twentieth century critics recognized a supposedly discrete category of Shakespearean text known as the ‘problem play’. Which plays were to carry that label and the qualifications for admission to the group were debated topics, though Measure for Measure was always reckoned to possess the necessary ingredients. Then, at some point in the 1980s, the concept was tacitly discarded. No concerted critical assault was mounted on the term; since by now all texts were problematic, and those which had seemed not to be were quickly being problematized, the notion of a special class of ‘problem play’ simply melted away. It remains true, however, that texts are problematic in different ways, and my aim here is not to resuscitate a concept which has surely outlived its usefulness, but to explore an aspect of dramatic design which might account historically for the problematic character of Shakespeare’s and other Renaissance plays. It is presumably no longer necessary to re-examine the properties of the ‘problem play’ itself, or as it was so termed, and I want instead to point to a distinguished line of Shakespeare criticism which avoided the term but addressed issues that were cognate with it. At the centre of these issues is the dramatic construction of moral ambiguity, and the critics I have in mind are A. P. Rossiter, who identified ‘Something like doubleness of vision or aim’ in Shakespeare, Norman Rabkin’s ‘Either/Or’ and Graham Bradshaw’s discussion of ‘perspectivalism’.5 Behind all these approaches hovers William Empson’s concept of ambiguity, formulated in Cambridge in the 1920s. This became an essential part of the close-reading strategies pursued under the aegis of Practical Criticism, which was itself central both to Cambridge English and to the development of the subject as a whole in the twentieth century. Jonathan Bate has even argued that Empsonian ambiguity might be a product of the new physics that was being pioneered at Cambridge by Einstein and others at the same time.6 While it is certainly attractive to imagine a partnership between English and physics that puts 5 A. P. Rossiter, Angel with Horns: Fifteen Lectures on Shakespeare, ed. Graham Storey (London: Longman, 1989), 164, on Measure; Norman Rabkin, Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 33–62, on Henry V; Graham Bradshaw, Shakespeare’s Scepticism (Brighton: Harvester, 1987), 50–94. For an excellent account of the subject in relation to the visual arts see Alison Thorne, Vision and Rhetoric in Shakespeare: Looking through Language (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000). 6 Jonathan Bate, The Genius of Shakespeare (London: Picador, 1997), 311–18.

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Shakespeare at the intellectual frontier, this is not the aspect of Bate’s argument that I want to address. Taking Measure for Measure as his example, he contends that it was Empson who was responsible for doing away with the traditional obligation on the editor or critic to choose between alternative meanings and concludes that ‘ “Ambiguity” as the refusal of “either/or” was an idea of William Empson’s invention’.7 Rabkin acknowledged that his discussion of either/or responses to Henry V owed something to Empson’s seventh type of ambiguity, though he pointed out that ‘as usual he is talking about words rather than about anything so grand as a whole play’.8 And Bate goes on to quote Empson’s rather odd assertion that ‘the idea of “opposite” is a comparatively late human invention’, but without the qualification that Empson is again referring to a purely verbal concept.9 Empsonian ambiguity has to be translated into broader terms in order to account for the problematic character of the play-text as a whole, and Bate does indeed end up by arguing that Empson’s recognition of ‘both/and’ can be extended from the verbal unit to the entire work. But there are different ways of approaching the issue, and what I want to do here is to shift the focus from the method of interpretation, a phase in the development of Shakespeare criticism, to the object of interpretation, the nature of the text that requires it to be addressed in a particular way. Each of these critics, I suggest, is reconceptualizing what is essentially a rhetorical aspect of Shakespeare’s dramatic construction. And of these it is Rabkin, with his chapter title ‘Either/Or’ (his last chapter is called ‘Both/And’), who comes closest not just to Empson, but to a recognition of the rhetorical background of the phenomenon he is trying to describe: ‘I am going to argue’, he writes, ‘that in Henry V Shakespeare created a work whose ultimate power is precisely the fact that it points in two opposite directions, virtually daring us to choose one of the two opposed interpretations it requires of us.’10 He goes on to argue, in Empsonian fashion, that we should not choose between the two interpretations, but hold both in mind simultaneously. This ability to keep two opposing points of view simultaneously in play is something that was developed in early modern England, as in ancient Rome, by the practice of declaiming controversiae and by the 8 Rabkin, Problem of Meaning, 34. Ibid., 307. Bate, Genius of Shakespeare, 310; William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (London: Chatto and Windus, 1961), 192. 10 Rabkin, Problem of Meaning, 34. 7 9


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more general rhetorical training provided by the composition exercises known as the progymnasmata.11 Humanist pedagogy was especially keen to encourage argument in utramque partem, on both sides of the question. Any proposition may be met by an equally compelling counter-proposition, there will be arguments for and against following a particular course of action, and any set of circ*mstances is open to alternative interpretations. It is this speech-writing tradition that helps constitute the celebrated Shakespearean moral ambiguity, as well as the so-called ‘problem play’ itself. So where does this kind of material originate? The technique of arguing on both sides of the question began with the Greek sophists in the fifth century BC. According to Diogenes Laertius, ‘Protagoras was the first to maintain that there are two sides to every question, opposed to each other, and he even argued in this fashion, being the first to do so.’12 He also says that Protagoras was the first ‘to institute contests in debating, and to teach rival pleaders the tricks of their trade’, though there are others with a claim to being the first person to earn money by teaching the arts of rhetoric. If this is what Empson means by saying that the idea of opposites is a comparatively late invention, then we would certainly want to stress the word ‘comparatively’. Diogenes also tells us that Protagoras was the author of the Antilogies or Contradictory Arguments. While these have not survived, we can get an idea of their method from the late fifth-century Dissoi Logoi or Double Accounts, which set out alternative propositions in pairs of opposing speeches.13 The Dissoi Logoi look rather like student lecture notes and they have survived only by attaching themselves to the text of Sextus Empiricus, the sceptic philosopher of the second century AD, 11 The best account of this is Joel B. Altman, The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1978), but he admits that while ‘the material discussed in this book has obvious relevance to Shakespeare, I have made no attempt to include a discussion of his plays here’ (p. 2). An earlier study is Eugene M. Waith, The Pattern of Tragicomedy in Beaumont and Fletcher (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1952). On Shakespeare see Jones, The Origins of Shakespeare, 13–18. Many of the wider issues are discussed with characteristic brilliance by Quentin Skinner in ‘Moral Ambiguity and the Renaissance Art of Eloquence’, in Visions of Politics, ii. Renaissance Virtues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 264–85, and Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 19–211. 12 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, trans. R. D. Hicks, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann, 1925), ix.51–3. 13 See Jonathan Barnes, The Presocratic Philosophers, 2 vols. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), ii. 214–20.

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who also outlines the relativistic method. For Sextus, ‘rhetoric consists of opposite statements’ and ‘the orator, of whatever sort he may be, must certainly practise himself in contradictory speeches’.14 It is Sextus’ revival of Pyrrhonic scepticism that influences Renaissance thought, in Montaigne most obviously, but probably also in the later Shakespeare.15 There is also another and perhaps more direct route from the Greek sophists to Renaissance rhetoric. During the Hellenistic period exercises called Progymnasmata were devised in the Greek schools of rhetoric, which were then adopted by the Roman schools in the second century BC. In the fourth century AD, the period of the second sophistic, the Greek rhetorician Aphthonius left a record of the Progymnasmata, and this became central to the teaching of rhetoric at an elementary level in sixteenth-century England. Translated into Latin by Giovanni Cataneo in 1507 and later by Rudolph Agricola, thirteen editions of the Progymnasmata were published in Europe during the sixteenth century, often combining the two translations, and in 1564 an English version by Richard Rainolde appeared with the title The Foundacion of Rhetorike, designed as a teaching aid.16 The work consists of fourteeen composition exercises, graded in terms of difficulty, of which the penultimate one, the thesis, is closest to my present concerns. The thesis (the Greek word has the same root as theme) is a question that requires the merits of two alternative propositions to be debated, the most familiar example being whether or not a man should marry, which you can find in Erasmus as well as Aphthonius. Questions of this kind may be definite or indefinite, active or contemplative, the definite question being geared towards a particular set of circ*mstances. Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’, the most famous ‘problematic’ statement in English drama, takes the form of a thesis of a peculiarly indefinite and contemplative kind. This particular exercise highlights the point, but the Progymnasmata as a whole, as Peter Mack notes, ‘strongly promote the idea that the orator can argue on both sides of the 14 Sextus Empiricus, ‘Against the Professors’, in Sextus Empiricus, trans. R. G. Bury, 4 vols. (London: Heinemann, 1949), iv. 2. 47. 15 On the Greek material I am indebted to Charles Osborne McDonald, The Rhetoric of Tragedy: Form in Stuart Drama (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1966); see esp. pp. 10–20, 40–55, 75–83; on scepticism see also William H. Hamlin, ‘Scepticism in Shakespeare’s England’, The Shakespearean International Yearbook, 2 (2002), 290–304. 16 See James J. Murphy, Renaissance Rhetoric: A Short-Title Catalogue of Works on Rhetorical Theory from the Beginning of Printing to AD 1700 (New York: Garland, 1981).


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case’.17 They are likely to account for the problematic character of a great deal of Renaissance literature and drama. But the Greek origins of argument on both sides of the question, and the transmission of this as a rhetorical exercise in Renaissance pedagogy through Aphthonius, should not obscure the fact that it was Roman rhetoric that provided most of the models for the Tudor schoolboy. The generic name for speeches pro and contra a given proposition is the ‘declamation’.18 The term declamare originates in the late Republic, while the particular forms of controversiae and suasoriae became known as such in the early Empire. The controversia was a new version of the Greek thesis, as Seneca the Elder explains: Now Cicero used to declaim, but not the controversiae we speak nowadays, or even the kind called theses which were spoken before Cicero. The type of theme we now use for our exercises is so new that its name too is new. We speak of controversiae.19

Both the controversiae and the suasoriae were versions of the thesis in its definite form. Suasoriae, regarded as the more elementary of the two, were exercises in deliberative rhetoric in which speeches advising for or against a particular course of action were given to historical or mythical figures in critical situations. Controversiae, which completed the Roman schoolboy’s education in the early Empire, were judicial declamations for the prosecution and defence in fictitious court cases, and like the suasoriae they were used as exercises for developing the skill of arguing in utramque partem. Declaimers were given the facts of an especially complex legal and ethical situation, along with the relevant law, and required to compose speeches both for and against the accused party. The result was a narrative whose elements were interpreted in two opposing ways, or two versions of the same story told from different points of view. The largest surviving collection of controversiae is that of Seneca the Elder. Seneca had arrived in Rome from Spain at the age of twelve in 43 Peter Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric, 28. On the origins of declamation see Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, 2. 4. 41; also S. F. Bonner, Roman Declamation in the Late Republic and Early Empire (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1949) and Janet Fairweather, Seneca the Elder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), which I draw upon here. 19 The Elder Seneca: Declamations, trans. and ed. Michael Winterbottom (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974), i. preface §12. There are also collections of declamations ascribed to Quintilian. For an English version of the major (that is, longer) declamations see The Major Declamations Ascribed to Quintilian, trans. Lewis A. Sussman (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1987). 17 18

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BC, the year of Cicero’s death, and these were declamations which he had witnessed as a boy, then written down from memory many years later for the benefit of his children. Along with the actual controversiae and suasoriae the anthology contains character sketches of the famous declaimers of his youth. The political shift from Republic to Empire was accompanied by a change of style in the declamation, along with a perceived degeneration in the arts of eloquence in general. Starting out as a training for the legal profession and political life, and informed by Cicero’s ideal of the civic duties of the orator, under the Empire the declamations became quasi-theatrical entertainments with sleazier, more extravagant and sensational subjects. While Cicero had declaimed in private as a way of keeping his speaking skills up to scratch, under Augustus the declamation developed alongside the poetry recitation as a popular form of verbal display, attended by large audiences and subject to applause, derision, and critical comment. This is the milieu that Ben Jonson was to recreate in Poetaster. The association of declamation with theatre is, of course, directly relevant to the present argument, and it situates the declamations in the long debate over the virtues and iniquities of rhetorical and theatrical performance. Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy can be described as a thesis, and also as a suasoria, but, whatever name we give it, the play in which it appears is always going to be central in that debate. Hamlet’s Hecuba speech may well echo Quintilian’s comments on the futility of declamations that use impassioned language to no practical end.20 But while Quintilian was cautious about the educational value of the exercises, saying that they were useful provided that they bore some resemblance to situations in real life, he also thought that they had a nourishing effect on the orator by offering him ‘richer fare’. That is why ‘the richness [ubertas] of History should sometimes play a part in some writing exercises, and we should sometimes let ourselves go in the free manner of the Dialogue’.21 Cicero was a great speaker, he goes on, because he was also responsive to poetry. Nonetheless, it is clear from what Quintilian says elsewhere that his essay on the corruption of eloquence, which has not survived, focused on the declamatory style that became so popular in the early Empire.22 Furthermore, his caution that the declamations were useful provided that their subject matter was true to life was an acknowledgement of the fact that they were in general highly exotic. Tacitus attacked the controversiae on this basis: 20 21

See Hamlet, 2. 2. 543–83; Institutio oratoria, 6. 2. 34–6. 22 Ibid. 10. 1. 125–31. Ibid. 2. 10. 4–5; 10. 5. 14–15.


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Then in addition to the subject-matter that is so remote from real life, there is the bombastic style in which it is presented. And so it comes that themes like these: ‘the reward of the king-killer’, or ‘the outraged maid’s alternatives’, or ‘the incestuous mother’, and all the other topics that are treated every day in the school, but seldom or never in actual practice, are set forth in magniloquent phraseology.23

Petronius makes a similar complaint: ‘All they get is pirates standing on the beach, dangling manacles, tyrants writing orders for sons to cut off their fathers’ heads, oracles advising the sacrifice of three or more virgins during a plague—a mass of sickly sentiments.’24 There is a fascinating ambivalence towards the relationship between speech-writing and literature in all this that reverberates in later cultural contexts. What is certainly striking about the comments from Tacitus and Petronius here is how much closer they sound to the theatre than the schoolroom. This negative view of the declamation was reversed in the Renaissance when its status as an educational exercise was boosted by Erasmus’ edition of Seneca, first published in 1515 and completely revised in 1529. As was usual at the time, Erasmus attributed the controversiae and suasoriae of the elder Seneca to his son. The value he placed on them is indicated at the end of his introduction, where he writes that it would be more important for scholars to have Seneca’s declamations complete than any other of his works.25 Post-1529 editions of the Seneca also contain commentary on the declamations by Rudolph Agricola, who had stressed the usefulness of controversiae in his De inventione dialectica. He begins the commentary by pointing out the relationship between these exercises and drama: Let children nourish their parents] This is the theme of this first declamation. For those bits which briefly summed up the argument which was being declaimed upon, and which the comic and tragic poets call the arguments of their works, were called themes in the schools of declamation.26 23 Tacitus, Dialogue on Oratory, trans. William Peterson (London: Heinemann, 1914), 109. 24 Petronius, The Satyricon and the Fragments, trans. John Sullivan (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), 129. 25 Opera L. Annaei Senecae. Adiecta sunt Scholia D. Erasmi (Basileae [1540?]), unpaginated. 26 ‘Liberi parentes alant] Hoc est thema huius primae declamationis. Vocabantur autem themata in scholis declamationum ea quae brevitur contineb[a]nt controversiam quae declamabatur, quae poetae Comici & Tragici argumenta vocant operum suorum’ (ibid. 491). For a full account of the work by Erasmus and Agricola on Seneca see Lisa Jardine, Erasmus, Man of Letters: The Construction of Charisma in Print (Princeton,

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The point is crucial because it links rhetoric and drama at the fundamental level of plot, and it does so without any note of disparagement. In this case the theme was to be adapted by Shakespeare in King Lear. Agricola adds, neutrally, that themes may be found in fact or fiction, and may be taken from historians, orators, or poets, giving as an example of the first the story of the ransom of Cimon. Other humanist educators agreed with Erasmus and Agricola on the merit of these exercises. Vives promoted them with the comment, ‘Let young men declaim before their teachers, on those matters which may afterwards be useful in life . . . Scholars themselves will read the “declamations” and “persuasives” which Seneca has gathered from the orators of his day . . . they will be of use to the orator’.27 And as late as 1611 John Brinsley was recommending them for the upper grammar school with the explanation that the declamation is ‘a Theame of some matter, which may be controverted, and so handled by parts, when one taketh the Affirmative part, another the Negative’.28 So we can be confident that this kind of material formed a vital part of grammar-school education in early modern England, from the elite schools that Erasmus had in mind to the much more modest establishments that Brinsley was catering for. As Lisa Jardine puts it, the combination of Erasmus’ De Copia, Rudolph Agricola on invention and the declamations ‘opened the way to a training in persuasive and affective discourse more appropriate [than traditional schools logic] to the civic and forensic context of sixteenth-century education’.29 For ‘persuasive and affective discourse’ we could say speech-writing and creative writing. What Agricola makes clear is that a plot is both a theme and an argument, and it is the function of invention to supply you equally with plots, arguments, and themes.30 Plots are therefore allied to logic as well as rhetoric, and both are allied to the theatre. The same point had been made by Quintilian when he listed various kinds of proof and said that NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 129–45, and for Agricola’s handling of declamation see Peter Mack, Renaissance Argument: Valla and Agricola in the Traditions of Dialectic (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993), 237–43. 27 Vives: On Education, trans. Foster Watson, 186. 28 Brinsley, Ludus Literarius, ed. Campagnac, 184. The book went through ten editions before 1640. (Brinsley is citing Aphthonius.) 29 Jardine, Erasmus, 145. 30 On argument as plot, and on declamation in particular, see Wesley Trimpi, Muses of One Mind: The Literary Analysis of Experience and its Continuity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 306–7.


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All these things are in general called pisteis; strictly speaking, we can translate this as fides [‘assurances’], but it will be clearer if we interpret it as ‘Proof’. ‘Argument’ also has various senses. Plots composed for the stage are called arguments; when Pedianus expounds Cicero’s speeches he says ‘The argument is as follows’.31

The question of proof arises in the context of courtroom or forensic rhetoric, which is where the controversiae fit in. The crucial point is that the argument of a case needs to be plausible, just as fiction needs to be credible if it is to carry conviction. But there are other vital connections between courtroom rhetoric and the theatre. One is the technique of impersonation or prosopopoeia, that is to say fictitious speeches of other persons . . . when we pretend that the victims themselves are speaking . . . the pleas become more effective by being as it were put into their mouths, just as the same voice and delivery of the stage actor produces a greater emotional impact because he speaks behind a mask32

Along with its affective power to persuade, the exercise teaches you to project yourself into different situations and therefore to different positions in an argument. It also demonstrates the theatrical cast of the controversiae with regard to the other essential requirement of drama—characters. Quintilian had noted earlier that ‘Declaimers of course must especially consider what best suits each character . . . comic actors hardly have more roles to sustain in their performance than these men do in their speeches’.33 At this point Quintilian suggests that impersonation is more a technique of the suasoriae than the controversiae, but later he derives the stock characters of the controversiae from those of Greek and Roman New Comedy in a way which makes quite explicit their relationship with drama.34 This relationship can be established not just at the fundamental level of plot and character, but also with regard to description, or the way in which a sequence of events is presented to an audience. This is indicated by Seneca in the title of his anthology, Oratorum et rhetorum sententiae divisiones colores, which points to the ‘colours’ used by the declaimers. These ‘colours’ might refer to the figurative language used by a speaker to move an audience in a particular direction, and in this 32 Ibid. 6. 1. 26–7. 33 Ibid. 3. 8. 51. Institutio oratoria, 5. 10. 8–9. ‘I think [Menander] has even more to contribute to declaimers, because they have, according to the terms of their exercises [condicionem controversiarum], to play many different roles’ (ibid. 10. 1. 70–1). Quintilian also says that a proper study of Menander would in itself provide a sufficient training for the orator. 31 34

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sense would constitute the depiction of a story, but they also refer to the twists or ‘spin’ that a speaker might give to a narrative in order to suggest the way in which it should be interpreted. The declaimers were spin doctors. The spin could include emphasis on certain circ*mstances, questions of motive or intention, or the technique of redescription, in which an apparently wicked action might be presented in a virtuous light (and vice versa) through a redefinition of terms.35 Renaissance writers are intensely aware of these techniques, and we might still say that a person’s judgement was ‘coloured’. Barthes interprets the colours with typical jouissance when he lists them with ‘lights’ and ‘flowers’ as part of a secondary layer of language that makes it ‘living’: they are ‘on the side of passion, of the body; they render speech desirable’.36 But they are more likely to carry rather different associations in the Renaissance. Shakespeare frequently uses the word ‘colour’ to mean a cloak, a pretext, or a plausible reason. As Holofernes warily remarks in Love’s Labour’s Lost: ‘I do fear colourable colours’ (4. 2. 148). We can speak also of a colourful plot, a story with exotic subject matter and improbable twists in the narrative. Tacitus objected to this aspect of the controversiae in the passage quoted above, and Quintilian has his own say on the matter: ‘let the fictitious themes themselves be as close to real life as they can . . . We shall look in vain, among the forfeits and the interdicts [everyday law suits] for the magicians, the plagues, the orators, the stepmothers more cruel than in any tragedy’.37 This seems to contradict his comments elsewhere on the union of poetry of eloquence, and he does rather grudgingly concede that young men might be allowed to handle ‘unrealistic’ or poetic themes on nutritious grounds. But he was probably concerned about the slippage of the controversiae into the whirlpool of romance. Tacitus referred to tyrannicide and the options of a rape victim, two themes which are a staple of Seneca’s collection, but it seems from Quintilian (and from Petronius’ reference to the manacle-waving pirates) that after Seneca declamation had travelled further in the direction of poetic drama. And this is presumably the reason for Quintilian’s objection. The requirement that an argument should carry an ‘assurance’, a guarantee of credibility, has to be followed more rigorously in the courtroom than it does when it takes the form of a dramatic argument. What Quintilian does not say is that it 35 36

On redescription see Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric, 138–80. 37 Institutio oratoria, 2. 10. 4–5. Barthes, Semiotic Challenge, 84–5.


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is the very extravagance of the plot material of some controversiae which may have been responsible for a crucial development in Roman law. It has been suggested that ‘one of the bases on which the declamations have called forth the strongest criticisms—straining for the novel and the bizarre—may have contained the germs of one of the most important phases of Roman law; that is, the development of equity’.38 This is a term that can be understood in a variety of senses. I use it here to refer to the idea that your interpretation of a case, and therefore your judgement of it, may be affected by circ*mstances, which may also be described as ‘colours’, rather than by the strict letter of the law. Colourful plots, then, create a need for the more extensive use of colours as an interpretative aid, and this is a legal development which has fascinating implications for our understanding of many kinds of fiction, dramatic and otherwise, not least the dramatic type which has been labelled as ‘problem play’. In early Tudor England the development of equity led to an expansion of the hermeneutic resources available to writers of fiction and drama when dealing with problems of moral ambiguity, especially in a judicial context.39 Here colours might help to establish motive and intention that would in turn illuminate the construction of character.40 So these are the origins of what I am describing as the controversial plot. The classical excursion is important because it represents a rhetorical legacy inherited by sixteenth-century education and, as a result, by Elizabethan and later drama. We will obviously never know how Shakespeare’s mind worked, but we can still reconstruct the ways in which his mind may have been trained to work.


What I am arguing is that Shakespeare’s much-admired ambiguity, his ability to give us both sides now, is to a quite considerable extent the 38 E. Patrick Parks, The Roman Rhetorical Schools as Preparation for the Courts under the Early Empire (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1945), 78. 39 See John Guy, ‘Law, Equity and Conscience in Henrician Juristic Thought’, in Alistair Fox and John Guy (eds.) Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500–1550, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), 179–98; see also Lorna Hutson, The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in Sixteenth-Century England (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 139–51. 40 The issues are varied and complex, and also beyond the scope of the present book, but see especially Luke Wilson, Theaters of Intention: Drama and the Law in Early Modern England (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000).

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product of his exposure to rhetorical exercises such as the progymnasmata and, more specifically, the controversiae. This kind of ambiguity is not so much verbal as structural; it operates at the level of plot. One way into this is to point out that Shakespeare was identified with perhaps the most famous of the Roman declaimers by Ben Jonson. When Jonson recreated the world of the Roman literary contest in Poetaster, he dressed up his despised contemporaries, Marston and Dekker, in togas and made them purge themselves of their unruly verbosity in paroxysms of enforced vomiting. The declamation contests were very much a part of this world and that is where Jonson places Shakespeare, though rather less venomously, when he compares him with Quintus Haterius in Discoveries. The passage, from Seneca’s Controversiae, is certainly well-known, but it has rarely been explored in its original context, which is surprising, given that there have been so few attempts to compare Shakespeare with other writers (or speakers) either by his contemporaries or by later critics. When we go back to Seneca the parallels with Shakespeare are apparent enough. What they do is to link Shakespearean fluency to Shakespearean both-sidedness, copia to controversia. Since the passage from Discoveries is familiar it is worth defamiliarizing it by quoting Jonson’s source (in modern translation): His speed of delivery was such as to become a fault. Hence that was a good remark of Augustus’: ‘Haterius needs a brake’—he seemed to charge downhill rather than run. He was full of ideas as well as words. He would say the same thing as often as you liked and for as long as you liked, with different figures and development on every occasion. He could be controlled—but not exhausted.41

This gives an even better summary of Shakespearean copia (the combining of res and verba, facility in amplificatio, the spontaneous exploitation of ‘occasion’) than Jonson’s version. ‘Every time | Serves for the matter that is then born in’t’, as Enobarbus observed and Berowne demonstrated. And Haterius had other stylistic trademarks that we have come to regard as Shakespearean. He was relaxed about rules governing structure: ‘His order was the one his flow of language dictated; he did not regulate himself by the rules of declamation’, and he was not particularly careful about his vocabulary, using words that the schools later regarded as inappropriate because they were ‘rather 41 Seneca the Elder, Controversiae, 4. Pref. 7. Tacitus described Haterius as the most famous orator of his day (see Annals, 4. 61).


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low or in everyday use’, as well as old-fashioned words from the time of Cicero.42 This sounds a bit like Shakespeare’s shifting of stylistic register, or ‘double voice’. Seneca also mentions Haterius’ powers of vivid description which accompanied his ‘usual sudden flood of oratory’ and tells a story about how his friend Gallio accidentally let slip a favourite expression—‘he too was full of the god’—when listening to him declaim in front of the emperor Tiberius.43 The phrase is implicitly acknowledged, without the facetiousness of course, in so much later adulation over Shakespeare’s divine raptures. These potentially comic parallels with Shakespeare are quite seductive. But while the comparison with Quintus Haterius is likely to have been a shrewd insight on Jonson’s part, identifying Shakespeare’s debt to classical speech-writing exercises needs to be grounded in something other than Jonson’s imagination, however well stocked that may have been. As far as sixteenth-century education is concerned I want to stress the importance of the progymnasmata as well as the controversiae and bring together some of the points made earlier.44 The last four exercises in this programme aimed to develop a range of skills which complement the controversiae and which would have provided any future dramatist with the ideal equipment for creating problem plays. Exercise 11, ethopoeia, dealt with impersonation, which involved putting yourself in someone else’s place in order to understand and express their feelings more vividly.45 It is closely related to prosopopoeia or personification. This might mean giving life and speech to something inanimate— finding tongues in trees as it were—or it might mean the bringing to life of historical or legendary figures, as in Nashe’s celebration of the resurrection of Talbot in 1 Henry VI. But Quintilian also merges it with ethopoeia and slants it towards the controversial plot, as he does in the passage quoted earlier and also when he says that these ‘Impersonations, or prosopopoiiai . . . both vary and assimilate a speech to a remarkable degree. We use them to display the inner thoughts of our opponents as though they were talking to themselves’.46 Exercise 12 Seneca the Elder, Controversiae, 4. Pref. 9. Ibid. 1. 6. 12; Suasoriae, 3. 7. The original phrase, plena deo, seems to be from a lost passage of Virgil referring to the Sybil. The feminine ending is difficult to reproduce in English and presumably loses its significance out of context. 44 See Ray Nadeau, ‘The Progymnasmata of Aphthonius’, Speech Monographs 19 (1952), 264–85. 45 Here I follow Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edn. (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1991), 71. 46 Institutio oratoria, 9. 2. 29–30. 42 43

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was ekphrasis or description, which trained you to provide vivid details of sight and sound. This seems to have been one of the signature effects in Haterius’ speeches. After that came the thesis or the debating of a proposition, either general or specific. Hamlet’s overwhelming question comes into this category, as we have seen, and so does the question of whether a man should marry, which finds its way into Shakespeare’s Sonnets. And finally there is another controversialist exercise, legislatio, which involved arguing for or against a particular law, usually from ancient history: ‘An Opposition to the Law which requires an Adulterer to be put to Death on the Spot’, for example. What these exercises do is to combine training in argumentative and forensic structures, which would have developed an understanding of different points of view, the sense of both sides now, with various skills of animation. The principle of liveliness, the keynote term of so much Elizabethan literary criticism, and the principle of language as living speech, which is reproduced in the dramatic or quasi-dramatic aspects of the school syllabus, supply the imaginative dimension to argument. Impersonation and description colour the outlines of the controversial plot. It is clear enough that there is a close and ancient relationship between rhetoric and drama in terms of both plot and character and with regard to the means by which plot and character could be interpreted. That relationship may initially have taken the form of an influence of drama on declamation, but in the Renaissance, with the renewed prestige of rhetoric and the well-attested use of controversiae and suasoriae as educational tools, that influence was reversed. At the same time there is a complex genealogy of texts, from the first to the sixteenth centuries, in which material is transmitted from rhetoric to fiction, and from fiction to drama, reappearing in rhetorical exercises along the way. One especially protean example is that of the Gesta Romanorum. Inheriting material from the controversiae, these became a collection of moral tales for the use of preachers in the Middle Ages and survive in over 150 manuscripts from that period; they then become one of the earliest printed books of the English Renaissance, reissued throughout the sixteenth century and appearing in a new edition by Richard Robinson in 1595 from which Shakespeare takes plot material for The Merchant of Venice and Pericles.47 Other examples of 47 See Ludwig Friedländer, Roman Life and Manners Under the Early Empire, trans. A. B. Gough, 4 vols. (London: Routledge, 1913), iv. 297–8; Gesta Romanorum, trans. Charles Swan (London: Routledge, 1905), pp. v–xiii.


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this kind of transmission are provided by the Greek romances and the popular histories of Valerius Maximus.48 The text I want to concentrate on, though, in order to show how Shakespeare might have absorbed this kind of plot material, is Alexander Silvayn’s The Orator, which appeared in 1596, the year after Robinson’s edition of the Gesta. Silvayn is a pseudonym for Alexander van den Busche, who had published a collection called Epitomes de cent histoires tragiques in 1581, adopting this version of his surname while he was at the French court. The Epitomes is an expansion of a shorter collection of fifty-five stories printed first in Paris in 1575 and then in Antwerp in 1580. The book was extremely popular, being reissued in 1588 and again over half a century later (1643, 1649 and 1650) by Tristan L’Hermite under his own name and with the new title Plaidoyers historiques, ou discourse de controverse. The name of the English translator of the work, ‘Lazarus Piot’ (i.e. ‘magpie’) is another pseudonym, in this case for Anthony Munday, who had also translated Ortensio Lando’s Paradossi under the title The Defence of Contraries in 1593.49 An English translation of the shorter version of Silvayn had been registered to Edward Aggas and John Wolfe in 1590 as ‘Certen Tragicall cases conteyninge Lv histories with their severall Declamacons bothe accusatorie and Defensive’. When it finally appeared in 1596 it was described on the title page as The Orator: Handling a hundred severall Discourses, in forme of Declamations: Some of the Arguments being drawne from Titus Livius and other ancient Writers, the rest of the Authors owne invention: Part of which are of matters happened in our Age, and subsequently, with a reference back to the French title, as ‘The Mirrour of Eloquence: Containing an hundred Historicall, or rather Tragicall Declamations’. It is true that some material comes from Livy, and also that some would appear to be authored by Silvayn, but nearly half the declamations (or discours de controverse) in fact derive from Seneca’s Controversiae.50 As there has been no modern reprinting of The Orator I want to give some idea of its contents.51 It provides the most striking example of an 48 See W. Martin Bloomer, Valerius Maximus and the Rhetoric of the New Nobility (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 8. 49 See Celeste Turner Wright, ‘ “Lazarus Pyott” and Other Inventions of Anthony Munday’, Philological Quarterly, 42 (1963), 532–41. 50 Waith identified Declamations 37–73, 75–6, 82–4, and 86 as excerpta from Seneca in The Pattern of Tragicomedy, 203–4. 51 There is a discussion of Shakespeare’s indebtedness to The Orator in Winifred Nowottny, ‘Shakespeare and The Orator’, Bulletin de la Faculté des Lettres de

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either/or presentation of plot—a morally ambiguous narrative—from the period in which Shakespeare was writing. The best known of the declamations is number 95, ‘Of a Jew, who would for his debt have a pound of flesh of a Christian’. Others with Shakespearean connections are numbers 61, 68, and 82, which deal with what Tacitus called ‘the ruined maid’s alternatives’: ‘Of two maidens ravished by one man, for the which the one required his death, and the other desired him for her husband’ (61) and ‘Of a maiden who being ravished, did require her ravisher for her husband, and afterwards requested his death’ (68). The last of the three deals with a law which prescribes that every rape victim may choose either to demand her attacker’s death or to take him for a husband (82), which in its Senecan original featured Quintus Haterius as a speaker. They are all variations on the theme of Measure for Measure, while the subject of number 53, ‘Of her who having killed a man being in the stewes, claimed for her chastitie and innocencie to be an Abbesse’, is clearly related to Pericles.52 A considerable number deal with tyrants, as Tacitus had noted, and with rape and other sexual crimes. Two concern wicked stepmothers; pirates appear in three (including 53); and another two take themes from Greek mythology (Agamemnon and Menelaus debate the sacrifice of Iphigenia; Ulysses accuses Palamedes). One is about a father who is accused of hanging his eldest son, and who answers: ‘No sonne could be more dearer unto me than mine eldest, but equitie commandeth me to love the Common wealth better’ (2).53 This is quite a mixed bag, but looking at the collection as a whole we find that a great many cases fall within the family division, and that they are concerned with matters of honour and shame. One of Tacitus’ themes which is not illustrated by The Orator (except possibly in 48), but which appears in the declamations attributed to Quintilian, is that of ‘the incestuous mother’. This is indisputably a family matter, though one that is frequently inseparable from issues of state. As Richard McCabe has pointed out, Renaissance plays which deal with incest betray ‘an intense preoccupation with the moral and political nature of “domestic government” . . . the prevalent analogy between family and state, father and king, lends the subject a Strasbourg, 43 (1965), 813–33, but this seems to have made very little impression on Shakespearean scholarship; see also Gillespie, Shakespeare’s Books, 465–8. 52 See Lorraine Helms, ‘The Saint in the Brothel: Or, Eloquence Rewarded’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 41 (1990), 319–32. 53 Alexander Silvayn, The Orator (London, 1596), 16.


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peculiarly potent political relevance’. He also argues, in the context of the declamations ascribed to Quintilian, that ‘male writers, both ancient and modern, employ female personae to explore sexual concepts theoretically unacceptable to patriarchal societies’, and that (here quoting Patricia Parker) female eloquence represents ‘a potentially dangerous invasion of linguistic into social possibility’.54 This would be corroborated by a study of those declamations in The Orator in which women have speaking parts.55 Essentially what the controversiae do is to test the legitimacy of arguments based upon the conventional roles assigned to men and women within the contexts of family and state. In particular, they test the prioritization of duties and allegiances for any individual. They are a storehouse of raw material for the Renaissance problem play. The female dimension to the work is suggested, though rather obliquely, by the translator’s preface. Piot hopes it may be of use to lawyers, divinity students, and army officers, but then says: In reasoning of private debates, here thou maiest find apt metaphors . . . Fathers here have good arguments to move affections in their children, and children vertuous reconcilements to satisfie their displeased fathers: briefly every private man may in this be partaker of a generall profit, and the grossest understanding find occasion of reformation.56

Despite its Ciceronian title, which would suggest the orator’s role as public servant, Piot’s preface shifts declamation further away from its original public and political role and into the private sphere. This is a domestic rhetoric, and one designed for the middle classes. It might well have formed part of the reading matter of the audience for the Saturday rhetoric lectures at the new Gresham’s College in the City of London, founded in the year of the book’s publication. If you are of gross understanding it pays to increase your word power, especially if you are trying to get on in business. So The Orator represents a percolating down of declamation into ordinary experience, informing family and mercantile activities, as well as the popular entertainment through which that experience was mediated—the theatre. It participates in the development during the later sixteenth century of a civic 54 Richard A. McCabe, Incest, Drama and Nature’s Law 1500–1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. xii, 91; Patricia Parker, Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, Property (London: Methuen, 1987), 111. 55 See Declamations 11, 16, 17, 24, 40, 42, 52, 61, 64, 68, 73, 79, 83, 93. 56 The Orator, sigs. A4r–v.

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rhetoric constructed in terms of negotiation and conversation,57 which is highly adaptable to drama, especially the material of comedy. This is reflected in works such as William Vaughan’s The Golden Grove (1600), which is divided into books on ‘virtue’, ‘family’, and ‘civility’, or Lodowyck Bryskett’s Discourse of Civill Life (1606), translated from Cinthio, who was of course another and better-known source of plot material for Shakespeare. What we have in The Orator is a book that advertises itself as a compilation of themes and arguments likely to have force in private life, and which, despite its labelling as a collection of histories and/or tragedies, has the comic theme of reconciliation as one of its objectives. And, while Piot specifically addresses fathers, this is a rhetoric with a specifically female aspect to it. It assembles a large collection of either/or predicaments which are fairly crude in themselves, but when converted into drama are enriched by a newer and more feminine rhetoric based on negotiation and social interaction. The problematic character of several Shakespearean plays might be attributed to this process. It raises some complex issues that I want to limit here by focusing on the example of this particular text.58 The extension of Empsonian ambiguity into the broader structural dimension of the ‘problem play’ was probably first signalled by L. C. Knights’s essay on Measure for Measure,59 so what might The Orator tell us about the construction of this play? The Senecan controversiae from which many of Silvayn’s declamations derive are usually quite skeletal and leave little room for the development of character. What they do provide, though, is a memorable outline situation, a format which remains perceptible beneath a more fully dramatic representation of the events.60 We have the question, and its two sides. 57 See Lynette Hunter, ‘Civic Rhetoric’, in Francis Ames-Lewis (ed.), Sir Thomas Gresham and Gresham College, (Aldershot: Ashgate 1999), 88–105; on ‘conversation’ see also Jennifer Richards, Rhetoric and Courtliness in Early Modern Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), esp. pp. 23–42. 58 A better sense of this complexity would be gained from reading Shakespeare’s controversial plots alongside Lorna Hutson’s discussions of equity and character in relation to Terence and Aphthonius (see The Usurer’s Daughter, 163–87, and ‘Ethopoeia, SourceStudy and Legal History: A Post-Theoretical Approach to the Question of “Character” in Shakespearean Drama’, in Martin McQuillan et al (eds.), Post-Theory: New Directions in Criticism, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 139–60. 59 L. C. Knights, ‘The Ambiguity of Measure for Measure’, Scrutiny 10 (1942), 222–33. 60 In considering the controversiae as prototypes for drama it may be useful to understand them in Richard A. Lanham’s terms as exercises in ‘rehearsal-reality’ and analogous to modern computer modelling (see The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology and the Arts (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 47–8, 78). For another version of Shakespeare’s computer see pp. 149–68 below.


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Each declamation takes the form of a statement of the facts of the case and/or the relevant law, followed by argument and counter-argument. This is a forensic pattern which is replicated in the exchanges between Angelo and Isabella, where Angelo frequently invokes the law as a rigid, abstract entity (‘It is the law, not I, condemn your brother’, 2.2.82; ‘I now, the voice of the recorded law, | Pronounce a sentence on your brother’s life’, 2.4.61–2). But, as Piot puts it, in words which both echo Isabella and establish the principle of equity which is the theme of the play, ‘I know well that the law is strict, but the interpretation is large’.61 And the statement also points, of course, to the problems of moral ambiguity which the forensic structure of the declamations generates, and so to the breadth of interpretation which constitutes the critical debate. The two declamations closest to Measure in terms of plot situation are 61 and 68, and they are all about doubling. A man rapes twice in one night. Two women are victims of the same crime. Both speak, giving alternative readings of the events and making different choices, one for death and one for life. Either/or, to echo Empson and Rabkin. A man rapes a woman. She makes two different choices, one for life and one for death. Is she permitted to choose twice? The form of these declamations is open-ended. We are not supplied with a verdict, and the reader is encouraged to keep in mind alternative points of view simultaneously. The plot of Measure is obviously much more complex than the situations outlined in these two declamations, and extensive discussion of Shakespeare’s handling of source materials has shown why, but it still lends itself easily to translation into the style of The Orator. It might read like this: ‘Of two maidens who pleaded for the life of a man, one of whom he had sought to enjoy while compassing the death of her brother, the other having previously been betrothed to him substituting herself in the bed of the former to achieve a husband.’ Substitution is, in fact, the aspect of doubling which is central to Measure, the principal element in its controversial plot, and it is so because it works not just as a mechanism of the plot, but also as a rhetorical device. The colour of redescription involves an act of substitution in which one term replaces another in order to influence our interpretation of a person’s behaviour. Isabella’s outburst to Claudio, ‘Is’t not a kind of incest to take life | From thine own sister’s shame’ (3.1.140–1), is intensely coloured in this way, redescribing the act of redemption as a sexual 61

The Orator, 214.

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crime far more notorious than the one for which Claudio stands condemned. Its strangled confusion of procreation and death is echoed by Angelo earlier when he argues that it would be equally just to pardon murderers as to pardon the parents of illegitimate children (2.4.42–6). The first speaker in Declamation 61 of The Orator employs a colour of a similar hue when she claims that ‘I alone have ben defloured by twaine, that is to say, by him that did the deed, & by her that would preserve him from death’.62 The underlying principle of redescription is the recognition that virtue and vice are not remote opposites, but adjacent, each capable of being coloured to resemble the other.63 Isabella, in a desperate assertion of the contrary, claims that Ignominy in ransom and free pardon Are of two houses; lawful mercy Is nothing kin to foul redemption. (2.4.112–14)

In fact, the characters in Measure seem to be aware of the proximity of vice and virtue, but suppress the recognition. This is why Isabella and the Duke, the characters on whom discussion of moral ambiguity has principally focused, find substitutes to do their dirty work for them. Substituting Mariana for herself in bed is not quite ‘foul redemption’, but in Isabella’s terms it ought to be. The Duke appoints Angelo as ‘our substitute’ to clean up the city which he has allowed to slide, then hides behind a literal cloak of virtue in the form of a monk’s habit.64 The fact that this garment is echoed in the theatre by Isabella’s dress as a novice is a visual statement of their unadulterated purity which is contradicted by the events of the plot. In a different sense, however, the character who most sharply illustrates the proximity of virtue and vice is Mariana herself. When she Ibid. 255. The rhetorical figure of redescription is paradiastole. On this and the proximity of vice and virtue see Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric, 149–53, 153–61. Skinner also cites The Orator, Declamation 2, as an example of paradiastole, in ‘Thomas Hobbes: Rhetoric and the Construction of Morality’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 76 (1991), 22–3. 64 On substitution in Measure see also 3.1.189; 4.2.184. The Duke says to Lucio: ‘You must, sir, change persons with me ere you make that my report’ (5.1.333–34). The head trick with Ragusine is a version of the bed trick with Mariana. Jonathan Goldberg pointed out that ‘Generation by substitution is the representational law of the play’, in ‘Shakespearean Inscriptions: The Voicing of Power’, in Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman (eds.), Shakespeare and the Question of Theory (New York and London: Methuen, 1985), 125. For more on the bed trick see Wendy Doniger’s cornucopian The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000). 62 63


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admits to having the status of neither maid, widow, nor wife, the Duke retorts, ‘Why, you are nothing then’, while Lucio adds, ‘My lord, she may be a punk, for many of them are neither maid, widow, nor wife’ (5.1.176–9). It is for the redemption of her status and credit as a woman that Isabella pleads when she pleads with Mariana for the life of Angelo, though the plea is made in the name of Christian equity.65 So in Declamation 61 the woman who opts to marry the rapist argues, ‘I say that where the prerogatives or claims are of equal force, there is more respect to be had unto humanitie than rigor’, but with the pragmatic addition, ‘never did any mans death profit a woman’.66 Like the controversiae, the play highlights moral issues at the point where the law in its impersonal form is superseded by the principle of fairness. The issue of female status would illustrate the contention that the controversiae provide models for female roles that open up different social possibilities. Even if these are ultimately closed off, their rehearsal invites us to entertain alternative points of view, both sides now. One crucial aspect of this, which Measure flags up, is the importance of impersonation.67 The function of ethopoeia in the progymnasmata, and the practice of role-playing in the suasoriae especially, would have been to develop an understanding of the other point of view. In Measure this is assimilated to a female strategy of negotiation which links the doubling process in the play to the establishment of equity. As Isabella tries to explain to Angelo: If he had been as you and you as he, You would have slipped like him, but he, like you, Would not have been so stern. (2.2.66–8)

Where Angelo simply recites the impersonality of the law, Isabella proposes the quite opposite tactic of impersonation. Equity will be achieved, she suggests, through imaginative engagement or empathy 65 On sex and credit in Shakespeare see Hutson, The Usurer’s Daughter, 188–223, and on the equitable voice of femininity and its moral incoherence (read as moral ‘character’) in relation to the abandoned woman see Hutson, ‘The “Double Voice” of Renaissance Equity and the Literary Voices of Women’ in Danielle Clarke and Elizabeth Clarke (eds.), ‘This Double Voice’: Gendered Writing in Early Modern England (Basingstoke and New York: Macmillan, 2000), 142–63. 66 The Orator, 256. 67 Arthur F. Kinney emphasizes this in Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 22–3.

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with other persons. It is true that she is not too willing to put herself in Claudio’s place imaginatively, never mind substituting her body for his, but she manages to grasp the principle, and when she pleads with Mariana for Angelo in Act 5, she puts it into practice. If this rhetoric of negotiation and interaction has a feminine aspect to it, it also illustrates the suggestion I made earlier that if Marlowe aligns himself with the speech maker, Shakespeare adopts the perspective of the audience.68 It is a point that might ultimately be extended to cover Shakespeare’s understanding of the dramatic art in general. Theseus’ verdict on the ‘very tragical mirth’ of the Pyramus and Thisbe play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is that ‘The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse if imagination amend them’. To Hippolyta’s observation that ‘It must be your imagination, then, and not theirs’, he answers, ‘If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men’ (5.1.210-15). From the actors’ point of view, a wounded Holofernes complains that the reception of the entertainment in Love’s Labour’s Lost is ‘not generous, not gentle, not humble’ (5.2.622). Several of Shakespeare’s own plays end with an appeal to the audience to judge generously.69 If Measure attempts to resolve its contradictions through the application of Christian equity, it at least does so in a society where all are nominally of the same faith. This is clearly not the case in The Merchant of Venice. In Silvayn’s version of the bond-of-flesh story the Christian replies to the Jew, ‘It is no strange matter to here those dispute of equitie which are themselves most unjust; and such as have no faith at all’.70 This is a first strike to establish the Jew’s subhuman status (he is later compared to the proverbially savage tiger), which of itself disqualifies his arguments, now redescribed as ‘sophistical reasons’. The Jew’s own speech opens with a generalization about the economic welfare of the state: ‘Impossible is it to breake the credite of trafficke amongst men without great detriment unto the Commonwealth’,71 and his individual case is hooked on to this. His concern is to guarantee the credit status on which his livelihood and even his life depends, and to seek redress against one ‘that putteth 68 Katharine Eisaman Maus makes a similar point: ‘empathy stands in relation to reenactment much as we have seen persuasion stand in relation to coercion in Marlowe’s plays’ (Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance, 174). 69 On the moral ambivalence of Shakespeare’s ‘generosity’ see Rachel Heard, ‘Shakespeare, Gender and the Rhetoric of Excuse’, Ph.D. thesis (University of St Andrews 2003), 8–54. 70 The Orator, 404. 71 Ibid. 401.


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another in danger to lose both credit & reputation, yea and it may be life and al for greife?’.72 If Christian equity is responsible for rescuing Mariana from her status as ‘nothing’, restoring her own credit and reputation, it is equally responsible for excluding the non-Christian from its beneficent arrangements. The Orator supplies a suggestive context for this. The bond-of-flesh story comes near the end of Silvayn’s collection. Shortly beforehand there are a number of declamations which are rather different in character from the Senecan tales. They are more exotic, more gruesome, and deal with especially sensational cases. Number 77 indicates the change in style, though it is innocuous enough: a servant turns his master into a fool with a love potion. Number 78, however, is about ‘the natural malice of little children’ and concerns a girl who kills her younger brother by castrating him because he has wet himself. The girl is then killed by her mother. Number 79 is about a Turk who purchases a red-headed child in order to make a poison out of him. (Here the preamble to the two speeches constitutes a narrative in itself, with its own speakers.) Number 81 deals with a surgeon who practises vivisection on a soldier to see ‘the moving of a quick heart’ and contains a debate about medical ethics. These stories are all concerned with ‘abhominable’ offences. This was the standard spelling of the word in Shakespeare’s day (no other occurs in the First Folio), deriving from ab homine to mean ‘away from man, inhuman, beastly’ (OED), and this is the meaning of the Christian’s retort in The Orator that the Jew is using sophisticated reasons to ‘proove that his abhomination is equitie’.73 The Senecan material in Silvayn’s collection refers quite casually, and frequently, to torture, but in these later declamations issues of mutilation and bodily abuse are brought into sharp relief, and Number 95 is very much a part of this group. For here the Jew asks: ‘What a matter were it then, if I should cut of his privie members . . . or else if I would cut off his nose, his lips, his eares, and to pull out his eies . . .’74 Readers of The Orator, including those of the grossest understanding, would have sensed the ‘abhominable’ practices of castration and vivisection lurking behind The Merchant of Venice.

73 Ibid. 404. The Orator, 403. Declamation 95 is also cited in this context in James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 126. It is worth adding that ‘Piot’ (alias Anthony Munday) was the author of Zelauto (1580), which has a story of a bond for the right eyes of two men and is generally regarded as a source for The Merchant. 72 74

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Equity is invoked in The Orator in a variety of opposing ways, as dependent both on external loyalties and on internal truth. The father in Declamation 2, who offers a model for Titus’ killing of Mutius in Titus Andronicus by arguing that equity obliges him to put the ‘commonwealth’ before his son, is an example of the first kind. But in Declamation 9, where a man kills his wife for failing to prevent fatal accidents to their two children, and the judges are said to be ‘moderating the rigour of the lawes, according to the equity of their conscience’, we are given a more modern concept of equity which embraces a more internalized sense of justice.75 In The Merchant even the appeal to the interests of the commonwealth, suggested by Silvayn’s Jew, is superseded by Shylock’s ‘abhominable’ status. As Piot says, ‘every private man may in this be partner of a generall profit’, but not if he is a Jew. That is the context for the famous speech on his humanity: ‘Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions . . . If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?’ (3.1.54–61). Shylock is demanding an exercise in ethopoeia: ‘imagine me as I am, a person, like you’, he says. The failure of the Christians to engage in this act of impersonation, their denial of his own personality, is what drives Shylock to seek redress through the absolute impersonality of the law, as he conceives it. As he does so, the more sinister aspects of his speech start to resonate. The rhetorical subdivision of the human being followed by the references to bleeding and poison trigger off the diabolical associations of mutilation and murder that cluster round the declamation in Silvayn. It is an intriguing example of double focus in the play which is also inseparable from the duplicity of the Christians. The female speaker in Declamation 61 had asked for ‘humanitie’ to take precedence over the ‘rigor of the law’, but humanity understood as mercy or generosity has to be predicated on an acknowledgement of the humanity, in the more fundamental sense of the word, of the different parties concerned. Since they have defined him as an ‘alien’ (Portia’s word), it is quite pointless for the Christians to appeal to Shylock’s humanity in any sense of the term. The Merchant’s controversial plot, and the moral ambivalence of the play as a whole, is coloured by wider rhetorical issues, most obviously the deceptiveness of appearances. Bassanio’s speech on this subject (3.2.73–101), as he tries to identify where Portia’s image is 75

The Orator, 63.


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concealed, has been well analysed by Peter Platt, who describes it as a ‘staged problem’ and who also points out that in this play ‘singleness— in language, interpretation, and thought—is punished as it usually is in Shakespeare’.76 But Shylock’s ‘singleness’ might be contrasted rather uncomfortably with Christian double standards, while Portia herself, the female negotiator of The Merchant, has a rather more vindictive role to play than Isabella. This is reinforced by her assuming a male persona, with both sides referring to her as a judge rather than an advocate. Her role is further complicated by the fact that gender difference in the play is overridden by the difference between Christian and Jew. With the erasure of the alien, and her reverting to her proper gender in the last act, she assumes the more conventional, comedic role as negotiator in love. It remains the case, however, that the woman’s part in plays with controversial plots is central. Both Measure and The Merchant are comedies, or tragicomedies, with strong legal and Christian contexts. A play which is none of these things, but which is certainly implicated in the controversiae, is Coriolanus. Here too, at the climax, a woman pleads her case. Coriolanus gives the controversial plot and The Orator their tragic turn. Winifred Nowottny has demonstrated substantial resemblances between this play and Declamation 5, which deals with the government of the Commonwealth and features speeches by Spurius Servilius, a general accused of cowardly fighting, and the tribunes who represent the vox populi.77 But this is also the play that best illustrates the testing of allegiances to either family or state which are characteristic of Silvayn’s collection as a whole. The dilemma faced by Coriolanus in Act 5, where the nature of pietas is examined both as duty to family and duty to state, is very much of a piece with the Senecan and other Roman material in The Orator. What is more, it is a play which debates the value of eloquence itself; where, on the one side, ‘voices’ can be a term of abuse, and action alone is eloquence, but which finally, on the other, demonstrates the overwhelming power of words. Its climax is a quasijudicial scene in which a woman pleads in terms that set out grim alternatives:

76 Peter G. Platt, ‘Shakespeare and Rhetorical Culture’, in David Scott Kastan (ed.), A Companion to Shakespeare (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 291, 293. 77 ‘Shakespeare and The Orator’, 825–32. Coriolanus himself is cited as an example in Declamation 11.


Both Sides Now either thou Must as a foreign recreant be led With manacles thorough our streets, or else Triumphantly tread on thy country’s ruin, And bear the palm for having bravely shed Thy wife and children’s blood. (5.3.114–19)

Yet Volumnia hopes to negotiate between this either/or, to persuade thee Rather to show a noble grace to both parts Than seek the end of one. (5.3.121–3)

What in fact happens is that Coriolanus takes his mother’s part, but refuses to be moved to her side. This is the untenably divided position that Aufidius realizes he can exploit: I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and thy honour At difference in thee. Out of that I’ll work Myself a former fortune. (5.3.201–3)

The result is that Coriolanus is literally torn apart. In tragedy the reconciliation of either/or into both/and is reversed, malignly altered into neither/nor, the lose/lose situation. Coriolanus is forced to choose between alternatives, neither of which can save him. Shakespeare’s play offers a gloomy view of the (early) Roman republic, but it would be completely misleading to imply that the relationship between declamation and drama underpins a conservative politics. If the controversiae rehearse radical possibilities in terms of gender, so they do in terms of politics. The case has long been established, notably in the work of Quentin Skinner, for the role of rhetoric in developing republican theories of government in the Renaissance. And, while Tacitus might have sneered at stock declamation themes on tyrants, the subject of legitimate tyrannicide was seriously debated in sixteenthand seventeenth-century England. Erasmus and More’s reply to Lucian’s declamation on tyrannicide may have been largely an academic exercise, but the issue was far from academic in January 1649. In the interim we might point to the disputations at Cambridge University in 1564, witnessed by Queen Elizabeth, which included a declamation


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on whether monarchy was the best form of government.78 In ancient Rome itself declamation retained a political edge. During the Civil War Cicero records that he made a series of private declamations, all on the subject of tyrants, as he anticipated the coming domination of Caesar. Seneca, on the other hand, writing under Tiberius, looked back to Augustus’ reign as a time of relative freedom of speech.79 Bookburning, unknown in the Republic, was now practised, and there were severe penalties for ‘using school-themes on tyrants to convey antimonarchial sentiments’.80 This is the regime that Jonson dramatizes in Sejanus, in particular in the trial of Cremutius Cordus, a historian mentioned by Seneca, whose books were burned in AD 25. Jonson’s character is a republican who speaks ‘freely and nobly’ on behalf of Brutus and Cassius, a risky thing to do.81 But, as far as education is concerned, perhaps the most interesting observation on eloquence and politics comes from Richard Mulcaster. Discussing the ‘division of colleges according to professions’, he begins with ‘Tongues’, and says: We do attribute to much to toungues, which do minde them more then we do matter chiefly in a monarchie: and esteeme it more honorable to speake finely, then to reason wisely: where wordes be but praised for the time, and wisedom winnes at length. For while the Athenian, and Romaine popular governementes did yeald so much unto eloquence, as one mans perswasion might make the whole assembly to sway with him, it was no mervell if the thing were in price, which commaunded: if wordes were of weight, which did ravish: if force of sentence were in credit, which ruled the fantsie, and bridled the hearer. Then was the toungue imperiall bycause it dealt with the people: now must it obey, bycause it deales with a prince, and be servaunt unto learned matter, acknowledging it to be her liege, and mistresse.82

78 See The Tyrranicide, trans. Erika Rummel in Collected Works of Erasmus, xxix, ed. Elaine Fantham and Erika Rummel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), 71–123; David Norbrook, ‘Rhetoric, Ideology and the Elizabethan World Picture’, in Peter Mack (ed.), Renaissance Rhetoric (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994), 146–7. 79 See Bonner, Roman Declamation, 10, 43. 80 Ibid. 43 n. On book-burning see Seneca, Controversiae, 10, pref. 6: ‘It was for [Labienus] that there was first devised a new punishment: his enemies saw to it that all his books were burnt. It was an unheard-of novelty that punishment should be exacted from literature’. In London book-burning followed the bishops’ ban on literature deemed to be offensive or subversive in 1599. 81 Sejanus His Fall, ed. Philip J. Ayres (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), iii.461. 82 Training Up of Children, ed. Barker, 238.

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Mulcaster gives us an Elizabethan verdict on the rhetorical legacy of Athenian democracy and republican Rome, but it is a rather perverse one. Eloquence has an important role to play when you have a government of the people, he argues, but under a monarchy it is of less consequence. So nowadays matter (res) should take precedence over expression or ‘words’ (verba). But this obeisance to the political status quo is hardly consistent with the emphasis in his own educational regime on speech skills and drama, or with the elaboration of his own style, or with his enthusiasm for a native English eloquence, as we shall see in the next chapter. Besides, his acknowledgement that the affective power of eloquence can ‘ravish’ the hearer is a fair indication of where his real sympathies lie. Despite Mulcaster’s rather ambiguous attitude towards speechwriting, the declamation in particular remained tenaciously in the English rhetoric curriculum, and later in English Studies, for centuries. Eventually it reached the moribund condition that Charles Lamb complained about in his comment on ‘To be or not to be . . .’.83 Yet fifty years earlier Hugh Blair had made declamation a central part of what was to become in effect the first university programme of English Studies when he took up the newly created Chair of Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres at Edinburgh.84 Blair also echoed Mulcaster’s view of eloquence, but with a rather different emphasis: ‘eloquence is to be looked for only in free states’, he declared, explaining that it was only possible for eloquence of a ‘flowery’ kind to take root under a tyranny: ‘High, manly, and forcible Eloquence is, indeed, to be looked for only, or chiefly in the regions of freedom.’85 This view was exported to America and repeated, stripped of its gender associations, by John Quincy Adams, the first Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard (and future US President): ‘The only birth of eloquence therefore must be a free state . . . Between authority and obedience there can be no deliberation; and wheresoever submission is the principle of government in a nation, eloquence can never arise’.86 But this is to See p. 21 above. See Franklin E. Court, Institutionalizing English Literature: The Culture and Politics of Literary Study, 1750–1900 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1992), 33. 85 Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ii. 180–1. 86 Cited from David Daiches, ‘Style Périodique and Style Coupé: Hugh Blair and the Scottish Rhetoric of American Independence’, in Richard B. Sher and Jeffrey R. Smitten (eds.), Scotland and America in the Age of Enlightenment (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990), 213; see also Susan Manning, Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2002), 251–2. 83 84


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anticipate much later developments. As far as Shakespeare is concerned this all looks like another instance of his creative abuse of the Tudor education system, and one with a political edge to it. Mulcaster himself was not referring specifically to declamation, but this did appear on his syllabus at Merchant Taylors’, and speechwriting in general was certainly an integral part of Elizabethan education. Nor is there any doubt, given the ubiquitous presence of Cicero’s speeches as a set text, that pupils were expected to acquire a sense of the expressive power of eloquence. But the aspect of this training that I have focused on in the present chapter is not so much the tongue imperial, as Mulcaster puts it, as the tongue controversial and its models of double-sidedness. This is at the root of the so-called ‘problem play’, of ‘ambiguity’ in its wider, structural sense, and of Shakespeare’s celebrated even-handedness. The problem plays (whichever one chooses to identify in this way) are part of a mainstream tradition of dramatizing morally ambiguous situations and inviting the audience to entertain different points of view. Controversial plots were much employed in the generation immediately following Shakespeare, particularly by King’s Men writers such as Fletcher, Field, and Massinger.87 Rather intriguingly, two of Massinger’s lost plays have the titles The Orator and The Tyrant,88 while The Roman Actor, performed at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2002, debates the response of drama to political tyranny. Altman’s book The Tudor Play of Mind, which laid so much of the ground work for understanding this aspect of Shakespeare, was not well timed. Coming out of Berkeley in 1978, on the eve of the new historicism, its interests were rather eclipsed by much of what happened in the following two decades. Yet the controversiae provide models for a whole range of issues debated by materialist criticism of Renaissance literature and drama: gender roles, patriarchy, sexual codes, structures of power within the state, and the forms in which these categories overlap. At the same time, a critical vocabulary that included terms such as ‘interrogate’ and ‘negotiate’ might have been developed precisely to recognize the legal and rhetorical aspects of the issues it addressed. Understanding the radical potential of the texts, as opposed to estab87 For example, The Queen of Corinth, The Fatal Dowry, The Double Marriage (authorship debated; see Waith, Pattern of Tragicomedy); The Bondman, The Unnatural Combat, The Roman Actor (see The Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger, ed. Philip Edwards and Colin Gibson, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976) ). 88 See Massinger, ed. Edwards and Gibson, vol. i, p. xxv.

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lishing the radical credentials of the author, requires a historical contextualization of the strategies of language that is more aware of the absolutely pervasive influence of rhetoric in the culture of early modern England. We do indeed have radical tragedy, and radical comedy, but not quite in the way it has come to be presented.


Vernacular Values 4.1 . NATIVE FEET

It is difficult at this late stage in the history of English to appreciate that when Shakespeare was born the language was understood by almost no one other than native speakers. Despite the enormous contribution of Erasmus to the literary renaissance in England and the ‘life-long Englishness’ that has been claimed for him,1 he never bothered to learn the language. Latin was the international currency of the circles he moved in. A century later, when the Earl of Arundel visited Italy with Inigo Jones in 1613–14 to study the monuments of classical art and add to his extraordinary collection of Renaissance painting, he is reputed to have spoken only in English. While this sounds horribly like the modern British or American traveller abroad, Arundel’s correspondent, William Camden, who records the story, explains that he did so ‘for the honour of our native tongue’, not because he was ignorant of foreign languages.2 It is unlikely that he would have been widely understood. In looking at the expressive media available to Shakespeare, and then at the ways in which his education would have developed skills in creative writing, this book has so far not been concerned specifically with the English language. But the emergence of a national corpus of literature, and later of English as a distinct academic subject, is of course intimately connected with the recognition that the language had the resources to compete with the authority and prestige of Latin, as well as with modern European languages like Italian. Although for much of the early modern period, at least as far as education is concerned, we should imagine a bilingual environment where skills were transferable between classical and vernacular, the story is also one of a developing contest, with English very gradually superseding Latin. The recognition of the sufficiency of English can be dated quite precisely to Jardine, Erasmus, Man of Letters, 12. (Jardine does, however, qualify this view.) William Camden, Remains Concerning Britain, ed. R. D. Dunn (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984), 30. 1 2

Vernacular Values


Shakespeare’s formative years, while the cultural contest between English and Latin that follows is first given theatrical expression on the London stages of the 1580s and 1590s.3 Shakespeare’s plays are part of that contest. A brief description of the origins of English as an international language, and the elevation of the national literature, led by Shakespeare, to premier cultural status, would present quite a challenge. It would, after all, require some account of the nation’s imperial progress, first as England and then as Britain, over two or three centuries. I shall return to the question of empire in the final chapter of this book, but here, in order to treat this subject with some degree of economy, I shall concentrate on two themes. The first is cultural relativism, by which I mean the view that the relationship between civilization and barbarism is unfixed, that the values associated with each are not polarized and are even interchangeable. I hope here to develop the subject of the previous chapter, the moral and intellectual relativism fostered by rhetoric, in a rather different direction. The issue is central because the perceived antithesis between civilization and barbarism is at the heart both of humanist education and the imperial idea. The second is the role of poetry as a civilizing agent, and my aim is to explain how these two themes converge in Shakespeare. In order to do this I shall begin with some very broad historical perspectives, but they will shortly converge on the Renaissance period and then, in the second part of the chapter, on two plays from the beginning and end of Shakespeare’s career, Titus Andronicus and The Tempest. First, then, some different perspectives. Just over a hundred years ago a short novel was published that was to become one of the defining works of the modern era. Dismantling nineteenth-century imperialist assumptions, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness set an agenda for the twentieth century that was picked up by T. S. Eliot and Francis Ford Coppola. The core figure of the novel—‘rotten at the core’—is the identikit Euro-man, Mr Kurtz, ‘emissary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what else’,4 who starts out with the belief that he can bring civilization to the sink of sadism and exploitation known as the Belgian Congo. We all know what happens, but it is 3 See Janette Dillon, Language and Stage in Medieval and Renaissance England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), esp. pp. 141–61, and Carla Mazzio, ‘Staging the Vernacular: Language and Nation in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy’, SEL 38 (1998), 207–32. 4 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), 36.


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important also to remember that Kurtz’s story is narrated from the vantage point of a boat which is situated not on the River Congo, but on the River Thames, a couple of miles from the capital of the largest empire the world had ever known, then at the summit of its power. Marlow, the narrator, begins his story with a reminder of how relative this all is: ‘this also . . . has been one of the dark places of the earth’. And he goes on to explain: ‘I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago . . . Imagine him here [the Roman commander]—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke . . . Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery had closed around him.’5 Marlow’s cautionary tale might act as a paradigm for the subject of this chapter. Culturally dominant nations fashion a self-image which casts them as guardians of civilization and arbiters of its attendant values of urbanitas—a process which Marlow eventually describes as ‘that great and saving illusion’.6 It is an illusion, whether or not ‘great and saving’, because those shining lights have also been, at one time, the dark places of the earth, and may be so again; the darkness is always there and is part of us all. In Roman culture itself the combination of urbanity and savagery is graphically illustrated by Ovid. The subject matter of the Metamorphoses is primitive, but these tales of sex and violence are delivered to us with cool sophistication. It is in this sense a city poem, and it was from the city of Rome, capital of the largest empire the world had ever known (etc.), that Ovid was banished in AD 8, to the very end of the world, as he puts it in Tristia. Not, in fact, to a British swamp, but to Tomis in what is now Romania. As Conrad’s imaginary Roman landed in savage Britain, Ovid laid down his head in a barbarous land, wondering if he would still be able to write in the same urbane manner. In the prosopopoeia at the beginning of Book 3 of Tristia the book itself apologizes on behalf of its author, explaining that ‘if some phrases seem perhaps not Latin, | The place he wrote in was a barbarous land’.7

Heart of Darkness, 7–9. Ibid. 108; on urbanitas in the Renaissance see Mike Pincombe, Elizabethan Humanism: Literature and Learning in the later Sixteenth Century (Harlow: Longman, 2001), 7–8, 33. 7 Ovid, Sorrows of an Exile: ‘Tristia’, 3. 17–18, trans. A. D. Melville (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 42. 5 6

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Ovid and Conrad, then, offer perspectives, from very different periods in history, on the meeting point between the civilized and the barbarous, and they will also provide contexts for that meeting point in Shakespeare and some other Renaissance writers. The confrontation between civilization and barbarism is reproduced over and over again in history and literature, so often figured as an antithesis, so often revealed to be nothing of the kind: roles reversed, places changed, as in a mirror; or combined and transformed in a process of renovation, a process that in Shakespeare is described as the art of grafting. Both these kinds of transformation can be illustrated by Ovid, or rather by the protean nature of modern responses to Ovid, and he will also provide an entry into my second theme, of poetry as a civilizing agent. In recent years there has been a remarkable degree of interest in the Metamorphoses especially, and among creative writers as well as scholars. Michael Hofmann and James Lasdun’s 1994 collection After Ovid, which is virtually a showcase for modern poets writing in English, demonstrated the versatility as well as the endurance of Ovid’s creative appeal. That versatility is notable in the contrasting contributions of Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. Hughes was particularly enthusiastic about the project. He had just completed a 500-page book which found the key to all the mysteries of Shakespeare in his Ovidian poem Venus and Adonis. He would go on to publish a critically acclaimed collection of his own versions of Ovid, Tales from Ovid.8 For Jonathan Bate, however, Hughes’s Ovid was an utter distortion, a product of Hughes’s own knot of obsessions, and he referred dismissively to his ‘countless misrepresentations’ in a footnote to his own book, Shakespeare and Ovid.9 What Bate clearly objected to was Hughes’s presentation of Ovid as a primitive bard, a myth-soaked shaman, a prophet of the Dionysiac primal urges, all traces of his urbanity and sophistication removed. And this is certainly how Hughes did see Ovid. Hofmann’s collection begins with Hughes’s version of the Creation, the Four Ages, and the Flood, and the subject allows Hughes to do his characteristic high-energy turn on the symbiosis of creativity, violence, and destruction. Heaney, on the other hand, chose the story 8 See Michael Hofmann and James Lasdun (eds.), After Ovid: New Metamorphoses (London: Faber & Faber, 1994); Ted Hughes, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (London: Faber & Faber, 1992) and Tales from Ovid: Twenty-four Passages from the Metamorphoses (London: Faber & Faber, 1997). For an excellent critical survey see Sarah Annes Brown, The Metamorphosis of Ovid: From Chaucer to Ted Hughes (London: Duckworth, 1999). 9 Jonathan Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid, 244 n.


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of Orpheus for his contribution. As the original poet, Orpheus is also a creator, of course, but one associated with the civilizing process, charming the beasts and leading men away from savagery. He is, eventually, destroyed by Dionysus, but that is because he has declared his mission to be the amelioration of the primitive, in opposition to the god.10 This was truly a fitting subject for the Boylston Professor of Oratory at Harvard and Nobel laureate. Hughes’s rugged free verse is exchanged for the polish of the rhyming couplet. Heaney puts the urbanity back into Ovid. After Ovid is a remarkable example of the art of grafting, new on old, replicating Ovid’s own transformation of the primitive through the sophisticated, modern texture of his verse, two thousand years on. Responding to quite different aspects of the Roman poet, both Hughes and Heaney make poems for their own time. But their contrasting responses to Ovid also offer a telling instance of role-reversal in the ever-fluid relationship between the civilized and the barbarian. The Englishman speaks for the primitive forces of the natural world and the Irishman for the figure who would tame and civilize those forces. This would have been incomprehensible in the early modern period, when the English and then the Scots were attempting to subdue the wild people of Hibernia, landing in a swamp, marching through the woods, and in some inland post feeling the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed around them. Any evidence of Irish poetry had to be redescribed as something quite different from the civilizing song of Orpheus, as Fynes Moryson explains in his Itinerary of 1617: The wild or mere Irish have a generation of poets, or rather rhymers vulgarly called bards, who in their songs used to extol the most bloody, licentious men, and no others, and to allure the hearers, not to the love of religion and civil manners, but to outrages, robberies, living as outlaws, and contempt of the magistrates’ and the King’s laws. Alas, how unlike unto Orpheus, who, with his harp and wholesome precepts or poetry, labored to reduce the rude and barbarous people from living in woods, to dwell civilly in towns and cities, and from wild riot to moral conversation.11

The last point might suggest that part of the colonial mission is to help the Irish communicate in lofty Ciceronian dialogue, but if so there is an 10 See Edith Hall, Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989), 149. 11 Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary in Elizabethan Ireland, ed. James P. Myers, Jr (Hamden, Conn.: Archon, 1983), 202.

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element of redundancy in the plan. English contempt for these savage bards—a sort of poetic breed of Circean swine—was complicated by the fact that they were apparently able to speak Latin with the same facility as their mother tongue. This had been remarked on earlier by Edmund Campion in his History of Ireland (1571): ‘Without either precepts or observation of congruity they speak Latin like a vulgar language, learned in their common schools of leechcraft and law . . . I have seen them where they kept school, ten in some one chamber, groveling upon couches of straw, their books at their noses.’12 One can’t help feeling here that Campion’s indignation suggests that he is a little unsettled by the paradox of these barbarous people speaking a learned language with such ease. Again, it has to be explained away as a travesty of the real thing. The denial to the Irish of these badges of civility—poetry and language skills—has to be seen in the context of England’s own literary renaissance in the period demarcated by the texts just cited. It was convenient for the English, as they began to forge a national identity, to define themselves against a barbarous Other just across the water.13 But it is important to remember, too, that when they self-consciously inspected their own credentials with regard to civility and cultural status they found themselves, at first, sadly wanting. At the time of Shakespeare’s birth England was not quite one of the dark places of the earth, but in the estimation of its own scholars and intellectuals it was still fairly dim, and it was the language itself that was the problem. In this context, the contribution of humanism to the sudden explosion of literary creativity at the end of the century, described in Chapter 2, needs to be balanced by the reminder that this vernacular renaissance was not at all what the educators had intended. After all, anyone hoping to produce literature of permanent value would have to write in a learned language, as Erasmus points out: ‘It is no good writing in the language of the man in the street if you wish your work to stay fresh and to last forever . . . look at the number of barbarian languages there are, which the common people have created out of Latin alone!’14 Ibid. 28–9. See esp. Michael Neill, ‘Broken English and Broken Irish: Nation, Language, and the Optic of Power in Shakespeare’s Histories’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 45 (1994), 1–32. 14 Erasmus, The Right Way of Speaking Latin and Greek 390. This advice was still being followed a century later by Sir Francis Kynaston, who translated Chaucer into Latin to enable him to survive (see Amorum Troili et Creseidae libri duo priores AnglicoLatini (Oxford, 1635)). 12 13


Vernacular Values

English itself, not even a savage derivative of Latin, was especially inadequate. Although Ascham tactfully applauded the voice of the ‘common people’ when addressing the yeoman archers of England, he also apologized for writing in English in the first place, claiming, as we saw, that ‘to have written it in an other tonge, had bene bothe more profitable for my study, and also more honest for my name’. In English, he adds, ‘every thinge [is done] in a maner so meanly, bothe for the matter and handelynge, that no man can do worse’.15 In the following decades, which include Shakespeare’s early years, this low self-image alters. English is increasingly recognized as a suitable vehicle for poetry and eloquence, and this in turn guarantees the nation’s cultural status. Ascham was writing in 1545, when a literary culture in the vernacular scarcely existed. Over the next half-century English experienced a revolution. In 1553 the first comprehensive rhetoric for the general reader appeared, Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique, and in 1557 Richard Tottel published the first printed anthology of English verse, the book that came to be known as Tottel’s Miscellany. Tottel writes in his preface that his collection is intended for ‘the honour of the Englishe tong, and for the profit of the studious of Englishe eloquence’.16 He also hopes that its civilizing powers will ‘purge that swinelike grossness’ of the unlearned. In the following decades the low self-image of English gradually slips away. Assertions of its literary sufficiency and its competitive status with regard to other languages start to supersede the gloomier perceptions of its ‘barrenness’. This renovation of English also required a search for origins and the invention of a tradition. The primitive could be redescribed not as swinish barbarism but as rustic purity. So, promoting the new poet Edmund Spenser, in 1579, E. K. writes to Gabriel Harvey that ‘he hath laboured to restore, as to their rightful heritage, such good and natural English words as have been long time out of use and almost clear disinherited’, while making a case for the revival of pastoral poetry.17 Spenser himself looked back to Chaucer as ‘the well of English undefyled’, a native Castalian spring. 15 Roger Ascham, ‘Toxophilus’, in English Works, ed. Wright, p. xiv. The fullest account of the rise of the vernacular in the sixteenth century remains Richard Foster Jones, The Triumph of the English Language (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1953), but see also Catherine Shrank on ‘the rhetoric of nationhood’ in ‘English Humanism and National Identity (1530–1570)’, Ph.D. thesis (University of Cambridge, 1999). 16 Tottel’s Miscellany, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1928), i. 2. 17 Vickers (ed.), English Renaissance Literary Criticism.

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This metaphor of the pure source is a powerful one, contrasting vividly with the bogs and swamps of unredeemed barbarism or cultural stagnation. But the image is also caught up in the debate about the legitimacy of borrowing and neologism, where the authority of Chaucer becomes a touchstone. Ascham complained that English had fared badly in the period ‘when Papistrie, as a standyng poole, covered and overflowed all England’.18 Chapman picked up the metaphor in his attack on those who resisted neologism, which he argued had revitalized the language: ‘for currant wits to crie from standing braines, like a broode of Frogs from a ditch, to have the ceaselesse flowing river of our tongue turnde into their Frogpoole’ would be to ‘bring the plague of barbarisme amongst us’, he wrote in the preface to his translation of Homer.19 Claiming Chaucer as an authority for ‘our true English’, Chapman points out that he introduced ‘more newe wordes for his time’ than any modern writer. Nashe, however, took a different view of Chaucer’s neologisms, describing them as ‘the Oouse which overflowing barbarisme, withdrawne to her Scottish Northren chanell, had left behind her’, adding, by way of compensation, that in this medieval springtime, art ‘was glad to peepe up through any slime of corruption’.20 (It is noticeable, too, that Nashe assigns to Scotland the role of the barbarous neighbour usually reserved for Ireland.) The range of interpretation here, produced by the same cluster of images, from pure spring water to stagnant pond to verbal silt, is quite revealing. As English grows in self-confidence as a result of its enrichment from other sources, some writers nevertheless hanker for the one true source and the prestige of tradition. When the source is also found to be impure, this is construed as a sign either of vitality or of a debilitating barbarism, where barbarism itself is figured alternatively as stagnation or contamination. The rebirth of English from primitive sludge (to adopt one version of this metaphor) was assisted by the sixteenth-century educational expansion, as we have seen, and it seems fair to say that the most undervalued contributor to the English literary renaissance, and to the surge of confidence in English as an expressive medium which made that renaissance possible, is Richard Mulcaster. Depending on the importance we attach to the formative influence of teachers, it can be Ascham, ‘The Scholemaster’, in English Works, ed. Wright, 230. George Chapman, Achilles Shield, Translated as the other seven Books of Homer, in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, ii. 305–6. 20 ‘Strange Newes’ in Works, ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, i. 316–17. 18 19


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argued that Mulcaster helped to create not only Elizabethan drama through his pupil Kyd but also Elizabethan poetry through his pupil Spenser.21 For a schoolmaster whose main task was to make his pupils Latinate this is a remarkable instance of cultural even-handedness, and his book The Elementarie certainly makes some ambitious claims for the vernacular. Every language reaches a point of perfection in its development, Mulcaster argues: the age of Demosthenes for Greek, the age of Cicero for Latin, and the present age for English. ‘Such a period in the English tung I take this to be in our daies, for both the pen and the speche’, he writes, and it is ‘the perfitest period in our English tung’ because ‘our custom hath alredie beaten out his own rules redie for the method, & frame of Art’.22 Mulcaster’s claims for English, repeated throughout the Elementarie, reinforce the point that the Latin-dominated curriculum was not delivered in a spirit of hostility to the vernacular. There is no sign of the later academic contest between ancient and modern, only a sense of cooperation. And in Mulcaster’s more extravagant moments of enthusiasm for English (‘I honor the Latin, but I worship the English’23) it is not difficult to see how the regime at Merchant Taylors’ might have inspired the literary ambitions of his most talented pupils. This teacher recognized an English renaissance not in retrospect, but at the moment of its inception. The Elementarie is a work of extraordinary vision in other ways, since it glimpses the future international role of English in the conjunction of empire, commerce, and education. Although Mulcaster initially admits that ‘our state is no Empire to hope to enlarge [the language] by commanding over c*ntries’, it is exactly that possibility that then seems to excite his imagination: ‘eloquence it self is neither limited to language, nor restrained to soil, whose measur the hole world is’, he goes on to say, before proudly claiming that ‘It is our accident which restrains our tung, & not the tung it self, which will strain with the strongest, & stretch to the furthest, for either government if we were conquerers, or for cunning, if we were treasurers’.24 And his vision even extends to the future provision of courses in English as a foreign language:

21 And, we might add, English prose, since Lancelot Andrewes, one of the translators of the King James Bible, was another of Mulcaster’s pupils. 22 Mulcaster, Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 83, 85; cf. also 178. 23 Ibid. 269. 24 Ibid. 271, 272, 275.

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And why maie not the English wits, if they will bend their wills, either for matter or for method in their own tung be in time as well sought to, by foren students for increase of their knowledge, as our soil is sought to at this same time, by foren merchants, for encrease of their welth? 25

These sentiments may well have prompted Samuel Daniel’s muchquoted celebration of English eloquence in his poem Musophilus, where he imagines the ‘treasure of our tongue’ being exported to enrich ‘unknowing Nations’, and Americans speaking a language ‘refined with th’accents that are ours’.26 Daniel, as we shall see, was another exponent of cultural relativism and a forceful advocate for a native poetic tradition. Mulcaster frequently expresses his agenda for English in terms drawn from agriculture (planting, soil) and economics (treasury, traffic). He constructs a metaphor of colonization (plantation) that was to gather impetus in the eighteenth century as English became an imperial language. In the late sixteenth century, however, the terms have more immediate application to the question of borrowing, and the pragmatic idioms of commerce offered a rather different explanation of language development from the one implied by the idealist metaphors of running water and standing pool. Trade enriched the language as it did the nation. It is true that not everyone used the economic argument in this way: the nationalist antiquarian Richard Verstegan, echoing Nashe’s ‘oouse’, suggested that English ‘is it self no language at all, but the scum of many languages’ and that if we had to ‘repay our borrowed speech back again, to the languages that may lay claime unto it, wee should bee left litle better than dumb’.27 But another, betterknown antiquarian (and schoolmaster), Arundel’s correspondent William Camden, expressed a view that was much more widespread by the end of the century. According to Camden, English had been improved by a process that combined political asylum, gentrification, and husbandry: it ‘hath beene beautified and enriched out of other good tongues, partly by enfranchising and endenizing strange words, partly by refining and mollifying olde words, partly by implanting new wordes with artificiale composition’.28 This is from Remaines (1605), the miscellany of leftovers from his huge Britannia, which first Ibid. 272. Samuel Daniel, ‘Musophilus’, ll. 948–52, in Selected Poetry and ‘A Defense of Rhyme’, ed. Hiller and Groves. 27 Richard Verstegan, A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (London, 1605), 204. 28 Camden, Remains, ed. Dunn, 29. 25 26


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appeared in Latin in 1586. The original book was a landmark in the construction of a ‘British’ national identity, and its remarks on the economic benefits of plantation with regard to the English language would take on new meaning in the rather different context of its later imperial progress. But for Shakespeare and his contemporaries this was all in the future. More to their purpose was a short piece by Richard Carew, tucked into Camden’s Remains, entitled ‘The Excellency of the English Tongue’, and it is Carew whose understanding of borrowing and its importance for the vitality of English offers the best insight into this aspect of Shakespeare’s creativity. His account is saturated in the language of commerce. English borrowing from other languages, particularly French, is presented in terms of ‘retaile’, ‘borrowed ware’, ‘profit’, and ‘stocke . . . not merchantable’.29 ‘Stocke’ then prompts a shift into the language of horticulture, combining gardens and treasuries as metaphors for copiousness; ‘we graffe upon French words those buds, to which that soile affoordeth no growth’.30 One aspect of these rich pickings that is vital to Shakespeare is the value of the robust English monosyllable, a vexed question and much debated. The monosyllable was either disparaged as evidence of English impoverishment—‘single money’, as Nashe called it31—or admired as an example of the language’s sturdy Anglo-Saxon roots. What Carew recognized is exactly what Shakespeare recognized: Againe, the long words that we borrow being intermingled with the short of our owne store, make up a perfect harmonie, by culling from out which mixture (with judgement) you may frame your speech according to the matter you must worke on, majesticall, pleasant, delicate, or manly more or lesse, in what sort you please.32

Carew’s insight is crucial. It highlights the double voice that produced the effect of ‘multitudinous seas incarnadine, | Making the green one red’ in Macbeth, and points to the conditions responsible for the range and flexibility of Shakespeare’s dramatic language as a whole. Locating the combination of grace and power in modern English, nuanced by gender, in the verbal commerce and grafting represented by borrowing, Carew extends the Latin/English issue to other contemporary areas of cross-cultural traffic. His explanation of the newly copious language is an explanation of Shakespeare. 29 31

Camden, Remains, ed. Dunn, 40–1. Nashe, Works, ed. McKerrow, ii. 184.

30 32

Ibid. 42. Camden, Remains, ed. Dunn, 43.

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So for English to achieve its potential the native stock had to be enriched. Mulcaster’s and Daniel’s exports depended upon Carew’s imports. The language itself was the raw material, and in the decades between Ascham’s bleak pronouncement on the poverty of English and the explosion of self-confidence in the 1590s, which is the period that produced Shakespeare, that raw material was increasingly recognized as a suitable vehicle for eloquence. Once the language had been adequately supplied, the nation’s cultural status was in the hands of the poets. This rapid alteration in the low self-image of English is of course deeply implicated in the theme of cultural relativism and questions of civilization and barbarism. Was the primitive language pure, or merely savage and unformed? Were imports corrupting or enriching? These questions are also inseparable from the belief that poetry itself was a civilizing force. The connection between poetry and civilization, embodied in the figure of Orpheus, is insisted on over and over again. In Horace’s Art of Poetry we are told that this ‘bard’ made men ‘shrink from bloodshed and brutal living’, and John Rainolds amplifies this in his 1572 Latin oration in praise of poetry, where he argues that ‘it should lead them from gross ignorance to learning, from civil discord to friendship, from thorough wickedness to honesty, and from barbaric wildness to gentle manners’.33 Moving into English, Puttenham is if anything even more comprehensive when he claims that poets were the first legislators, the first philosophers, astronomers, historiographers, orators, and musicians in the world.34 It would be difficult to overestimate the value that Elizabethans attached to poetry, and to eloquence more generally. Norbert Elias does not discuss poetry as an aspect of the civilizing process,35 nor was it one of those benefits of European civilization that Kurtz hoped to export to Africa, but for many Elizabethan writers it was the source of civilization itself. The concept of poetry as a civilizing agent is dependent upon a belief in the affective power of speech. This means that eloquence, articulation, and even elocution, in its modern as well as its Elizabethan sense, become indicators of civility. Mulcaster hoped that ‘the fining of our own English tung’ would make the nation seem less ‘barbarous’, since 33 Horace, Art of Poetry, ll. 393–4; John Rainolds, Oratio in laudem artis poeticae, trans. and ed. William Ringler and Walter Allen (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1940), 45. 34 See Puttenham, English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker, 6–9. 35 See Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners and State Formation and Civilization, trans. Edmund Jephott, rev. edn. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).


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‘fair speche is . . . a great argument of a well civilled peple’.36 Puttenham, who is, of course, writing for a courtly audience, remarks that ‘there is no greater difference betwixt a civill and brutish utteraunce than cleare distinction of voices: and the most laudable languages are alwaies most plaine and distinct, and the barbarous most confuse and indistinct: it is therefore requisit that leasure be taken in pronuntiation’.37 A little later (1593), Thomas Lodge claimed that modern poets had ‘brought the Chaos of our tongue in frame’, presenting poetry as a process of articulation which imitates the primal act of creation.38 The popular etymology of ‘barbarian’, on the other hand (from Greek barbaros), is that the word replicates, from a Greek point of view, the inarticulate noises made by all non-Hellenes, and the association of the barbarous with linguistic solecism is preserved in the term barbarismus. Richard Sherry, for example, refers in his Treatise of the Figures of Grammer and Rhetoricke (1555) to the three kinds of faults in an oration, ‘Barbarism, Barbaralexis, Solecism’.39 In modern literature the association is sardonically acknowledged in much of Tony Harrison’s writing, most pointedly in ‘The Rhubarbarians’ from his 1978 collection The School of Eloquence. What all this means for the Elizabethans is that the debate about the adequacy of English, and consequently the cultural status of the nation, was closely tied to the expressive capacity of a language still conceived primarily in oral terms. And as far as poetry is concerned we must include numbers or measure, alongside articulation, as oral elements which raise it to the level of civil eloquence. If English poetry was to achieve the kind of status enjoyed by classical literature it had to find an adequate form. In the 1570s and 1580s, at the start of the Elizabethan literary revival, there was much discussion about the viability of classical, quantitative metres in English. The quantitative movement, also known as the Elizabethan hexameter movement, was the subject of a detailed study by Derek Attridge. It sounds a rather dry topic, but it is in fact central to the development of a national poetic form, and to Shakespeare. It is difficult now to recapture a sense of just how important the aural dimension of language was Mulcaster, Elementarie, ed. Campagnac, 56. Puttenham, English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker, 73. 38 Thomas Lodge, ‘Phillis’ in The Complete Works of Thomas Lodge, ed. E. W. Gosse, 4 vols. (Glasgow: Hunterian Club, 1883), ii. 6. 39 Richard Sherry, Treatise of the Figures of Grammer and Rhetorike (London, 1555), fo. vi. Other examples of this kind can be found in Ian Smith, ‘Barbarian Errors: Performing Race in Early Modern England’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 49 (1998), 168–86. 36 37

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felt to be, because we have been desensitized to the nuances of the spoken word, and the rhythmic speech of poetry in particular, by our experience of so many different and competing media. But that is what made the debate about metre vital. It is also difficult not to take blank verse for granted. To our ears, blank verse sounds so obviously natural in English that it is difficult to understand how Surrey’s translation of Virgil could be described on the title page as being done in a ‘straunge metre’. But, as Attridge explains, ‘there was simply no word, and no concept, for blank verse’.40 Quantitative unrhymed verse was contrasted with what Ascham called ‘barbarous and rude Ryming’, ‘rhyme’ itself deriving from medieval Latin rithmi, which denoted accentual verse.41 So ‘rhyme’ and ‘rhythm’ were often confused. Since accentual verse also happened to use rhyme, accent and rhyme in our modern sense were taken to be a package, and if the verse didn’t rhyme it was assumed that the writer was attempting a quantitative metre. Hence the description of Surrey’s blank verse as ‘straunge’. Eventually, however, it was recognized that accent and rhyme were not inseparable from one another and the concept of blank verse emerged. It is no accident that the moment in the late 1570s when English freed itself from self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy coincides precisely with the moment at which blank verse quite literally found its feet. The OED gives Nashe’s Preface to Menaphon (1589) as its first citation of the term ‘blank verse’, which he characterizes as ‘the spacious volubilitie of a drumming decasillabon’.42 Nashe is clearly talking about accented iambic pentameter, and has coined the term (if it is his coinage) ‘blank verse’ to indicate the fact that it does not rhyme. What has happened is that the stress or beat or accent is being recognized as the principal characteristic of English verse and that the iambic foot has been appropriated from classical metrics in order to denote the typical stress pattern in English. Nashe himself does not talk about iambics, but others do. Ascham, a firm believer in the virtue of imitating quantitative metres in English, admits that English hexameters ‘trotte and 40 Derek Attridge, Well-weighed Syllables: Elizabethan Verse in Classical Metres (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), 95. See also Carlo Ginzburg, ‘Selfhood as Otherness: Constructing English Identity in the Elizabethan Age’, in No Island Is an Island: Four Glances at English Literature in a World Perspective (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 25–42. The original version of this chapter was developed independently from Ginzburg’s essay. 41 See Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, 289; also Vickers (ed.), English Renaissance Literary Criticism, 388 n. 42 Nashe, Works, ed. McKerrow, iii, 312.


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hoble’, but adds that ‘I am sure, our English tong will receive carmen Iambicum as naturallie, as either Greke or Latin’.43 Although Ascham is still thinking quantitatively, his telling use of the word ‘naturallie’ reveals an awareness of the quite different properties of English verse. This awareness is developed in William Webbe’s A Discourse of English Poetrie, published in 1586, which in fact derives partly from Ascham. Webbe complains that although the English language has been ‘pollished from barbarousnes’, English poetry still cannot ‘finde a vayne whereby it may appeare like it selfe’. He thinks that reformed versifying might involve imitation of classical metres, but qualifies this by saying that ‘where it would skant abyde the touch of theyr Rules, the like observations [might be] selected and established by the naturall affectation of the speeche’.44 So what is wanted is a metre that will reflect the rhythms of spoken English, and about fifty pages later Webbe finally hits the target: ‘The naturall course of most English verses seemeth to run uppon the olde Iambicke stroake’, he writes, where ‘stroake’ suggests something more like Nashe’s ‘drumming decasillabon’ than Ascham’s ‘carmen Iambicum’.45 Since from Ancient Greece onwards the iambic metre was always felt to have a close affinity with the rhythms of ordinary speech, it was clearly going to be a suitable form for the new Elizabethan drama. But to fulfil English literary aspirations blank verse also had to be recognized as an elevated form. The paradox about English blank verse is that it seems to have evolved in both ways, as both conversational and stately. This is because it was adopted by Surrey, and then by Marlowe for his translation of Lucan, as an epic form, suitable for non-dramatic, heroic verse, at the same time as it was being developed as a more demotic medium in the theatre.46 Gorboduc, the first English blankverse drama, reflects the paradox. On the one hand the new style was probably intended to give the play an exotic and formal air, and on the Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, 290. Webbe in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, ed. Smith, i. 227–9; see also Vickers (ed.), English Renaissance Literary Criticism, 361 n. 45 Webbe in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, i. 273. 46 Complementary accounts of the development of English blank verse are given by O. B. Hardison, ‘Blank Verse before Milton’, Studies in Philology 81 (1984), 253–74, and George T. Wright, Shakespeare’s Metrical Art (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1988). Wright argues that it may have started out as a metre ‘appropriate to a theatrical art of pretentious posturing’ (p. 97) before becoming a more natural medium for the representation of speech. Both scholars link English blank verse to Italian versi sciolti, which (Hardison points out) functioned differently in its epic and dramatic forms. 43 44

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other hand it is presented entirely as speech. It is a verse form that might have been invented expressly to accommodate Shakespeare’s double voice; more probably, Shakespeare’s sliding registers developed in response to the flexibility of the medium that he found, waiting to be exploited, in the late 1580s. It was T. S. Eliot who recognized, more completely than anyone else, just how significant this moment was, both for Shakespeare and for English: The Elizabethan age in England was able to absorb a great quantity of new thoughts and new images, almost dispensing with tradition, because it had this great form of its own which imposed itself on everything that came to it . . . To have, given into ones hands a crude form, capable of infinite refinement, and to be the person to see the possibilities—Shakespeare was very fortunate.47

Shakespeare made the form his own to the extent that, by the late seventeenth century, some writers thought that he had actually invented it.48 And if, in terms of his writing career, he moved it from a rhetorical form to something closer to conversation, it is nonetheless true that even his earliest plays show natural speech rhythms underlying the rhetorical surfaces. The outstanding film versions of Richard III (McKellen) and Titus Andronicus (Taymor/Hopkins) are undoubtedly testaments to two great actors, but they also demonstrate the remarkable adaptability, four centuries later, of the form that Shakespeare brought to maturity.49 The Englishness of iambics is finally nailed down in Daniel’s forceful, nationalistic treatise A Defence of Rhyme, composed as a reply to Thomas Campion’s rather belated attempt, in 1602, to argue again for quantitative metres in English. Daniel distinguishes between rhyme as ‘accent’ and rhyme as ‘harmony of words’, but emphasizes that ‘English verse . . . most religiously respects the accent’. He is particularly keen to establish the principle of cultural relativism in relation to poetic metre (and, indeed, more generally), pointing out that ‘Every language hath her proper number or measure fitted to use and delight, T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood (London: Faber, 1920; repr. 1997), 51–2. See Thomas Blount, De Re Poetica (London, 1694), 103–4. 49 It is worth noting that in an essay on ‘Shakespeare and Rhetoric’ Brian Vickers decided to take all his examples from Richard III. (See Kenneth Muir and S. Schoenbaum (eds.), A New Companion to Shakespeare Studies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 83–98. More recently, Frank Kermode has described the move away from rhetoric as the principal feature of Shakespeare’s stylistic development, in Shakespeare’s Language (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane, 2000). The point underlines both McKellen’s achievement and the flexibility of his material. 47 48


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which custom, entertaining by the allowance of the ear, doth indenize and make natural’. He argues that ‘rhyme’ is practised by ‘Barbarian’ and ‘civil nation’ alike, and observes sarcastically: ‘Will not experience confute us if we should say the state of China, which never heard of anapestics, trochees, and tribrachs, were gross, barbarous, and uncivil?’.50 As for English, all the discussion of quantitative metres turns out to be the dressing up of native measures in foreign clothes: For what ado have we here! What strange precepts of art about the framing of an iambic verse in our language! which, when all is done, reaches not by a foot, but falleth out to be the plain ancient verse, consisting of ten syllables or five feet, which hath ever been used amongst us time out of mind . . . you see what we have: only what was our own before, and the same but apparelled in foreign titles, which had they come in their kind and natural attire of rhyme, we should never have suspected that they had affected to be other.51

Daniel’s combative mixture of nationalist sentiment and multiculturalist sense marks the end of the debate; not surprisingly, since by now Shakespeare has written over half his plays, including Hamlet. What has happened in the decades from Ascham to Daniel is that the iambic pentameter has been prised away from its classical and quantitative roots and recognized as the natural English metre, conforming to the rhythms of English speech. What has also happened is that the constant fretting by English writers about ‘grosse, vulgare, barbarous’ rhyming has come to an end. Accentual verse, rhymed or unrhymed, is now officially civilized.


So how does all this serve as an introduction to Shakespeare’s first tragedy? I want to answer that question by asking another one: Why should a novice Elizabethan dramatist, drilled in Latin language and literature at school, have chosen to set his first tragedy at the time of the fall of the Roman empire. It is not even as though Shakespeare has picked out a famous story from late antiquity. If Jonathan Bate is right, in his introduction to the Arden Titus Andronicus, the storyline of this play about barbarians at the gate is Shakespeare’s own invention.52 So Daniel, ‘Defence of Rhyme’ in Selected Poetry, ed. Hiller and Groves, 200–2, 209. Ibid. 218–19 52 Titus Andronicus, ed. Jonathan Bate (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 83–92. 50 51

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it is not unreasonable to suspect that some kind of agenda is being set. The play is indeed self-consciously classical and literary, particularly in its use of Ovid, but it is also defiantly anti-classical. By choosing a moment from late antiquity when the Goths are rampaging through the Empire and intermarrying with the Romans, Shakespeare seems to be deliberately destabilizing the cultural basis of the Tudor educational system. Bate is surely right to describe the play as presenting a critique of humanism, and his point about the classical texts in the play being turned into ‘manuals for barbarians’53 is a very clever one, but there is more to say about these matters. One thing that might certainly be said in response to my question is that it was partly down to George Peele, who seems very likely to have been responsible for Act 1 at least.54 Peele’s background was classical and academic, and his residence at Christ Church, Oxford, had given him the status of a gentleman. It was at Oxford, where he associated with neo-Latin dramatists such as William Gager, that he translated one of Euripides’ Iphigeneia plays, earning him a commendation from Gager, who told him to ‘Go on binding the ancient poets to you’.55 So he was a cut above Shakespeare. For our purposes (rather than those of authorship study) the play of Peele’s that would offer the best point of comparison is The Battle of Alcazar, written around 1588 and first printed in 1594, the same year as Titus. Like Titus it shows off some spectacular violence, including a disembowelling scene that called for ‘3 violls of blood and a sheep’s gather [a bladder containing liver, heart and lungs]’, the book-holder’s instruction reads.56 Rather more significantly, though, it is set in ‘Barbarie’ and deals with the conflict (and alliance) between Christian Portugal and ‘barbarous Moore’, and features the ‘brave Barbarian Lord Muly Molocco’. National interest is stimulated by the advertisem*nt following the title: ‘with the death of three Kings, and Captaine Stukley an Englishman’.57 Peele had an interest in culture clashes, then, but we don’t know what his contribution Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid, 107, 109. See Brian Vickers, Shakespeare, Co-Author: A Historical Study of Five Collaborative Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 148–243. This would help to explain why Titus is, in Frank Kermode’s view, Shakespeare’s ‘most learned play’ (Shakespeare’s Language, 10). 55 Vickers, Shakespeare, Co-Author, 139. 56 Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage 1574–1642, 3rd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 182. 57 George Peele, The Battle of Alcazar, ed. W. W. Greg (London: Malone Society, 1907), A2r. 53 54


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was to the plot of Titus. Brian Vickers notes that ‘the chief writer planning a play would often co-opt other dramatists according to their special gifts . . . Each of Shakespeare’s known collaborators, so far as we can tell, brought special aptitudes to their collaboration’.58 So, while we don’t have enough evidence to assign responsibility for the invention of the play, it does look rather as though Shakespeare was teaming up with a classicist in order to promote a barbarian agenda. This is a pleasing irony in itself, but it also represents perfectly the character of the Elizabethan literary renaissance. What is clear, I think, and this is the centre of my argument, is that Titus is a play that emerges from the conflict, in the later sixteenth century, between the weight of classical authority and a new, nationalistic self-confidence; and from a conflict between a humanist-grammar school pedagogy and the demotic, native cultural traditions that were more suited to the arena of the public theatre. The fact that Shakespeare was a provincial now working in the metropolis, collaborating with an Oxford-educated translator of Euripides, may also account for its pointed contrasts between rus and urbs, between corrupted civilization (‘The palace full of tongues, of eyes and ears’) and barbaric pastoral (‘The woods are ruthless, dreadful, deaf and dull’, 2.1.128, 129). But that much is speculation. What the evidence of collaboration certainly does is to give an additional slant to the notion of ‘double voice’. What is also clear is that Titus makes a strong statement about cultural relativism. This was a missed opportunity in The Battle of Alcazar, but the Shakespeare–Peele collaboration brings it to the foreground. The word ‘barbarous’ occurs more often in this than in any other of Shakespeare’s plays, and it is catapulted backwards and forwards between Roman and Goth: ‘O cruel irreligious piety!’; ‘Was never Scythia half so barbarous!’ (1.1.130–1); ‘barbarous Tamora | For no name fits thy nature but thy own’ (2.3.118–9). Oxymoron (‘irreligious piety’) might in fact be regarded as the rhetorical figure best designed to express cultural relativism, as the internal contradiction deconstructs the apparent polarization of different value systems. In addition, the dramatic context in which this figure appears—the Roman desire for human sacrifice—looks back to a reiterated theme in classical tragedy, where, as Edith Hall points out, ‘many plots involved


Vickers, Shakespeare, Co-Author, 138.


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both the barbarians, and the sacrilegious violation of divine law’.59 Here in Titus, however, it is not just barbaric practice but also civil speech which helps to reassign the cultural categories. The relativist position is stated by Tamora herself in a speech which has all the features of Roman eloquence: But must my sons be slaughtered in the streets For valiant doings in their country’s cause? O, if to fight for king and commonweal Were piety in thine, it is in these. Andronicus, stain not thy tomb with blood. Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods? Draw near them then in being merciful. (I.1.112–15)

If mastery of eloquence is a badge of civilization, then Tamora is part of the club.60 So why does the Shakespeare–Peele team, in what became known very early on as Shakespeare’s first tragedy,61 go to such lengths to deconstruct the antithesis between Roman and barbarian? One answer to that would take us back to the debate about ‘rhyme’ and quantitative metres, and to Ascham and Webbe, Puttenham and Daniel. The story goes that ‘rhyme’, though invented by the Greeks, was reintroduced to Italy by the Goths at the fall of the Roman empire. Ascham, no more a friend to the Goths than to the Italians, writes curtly that if they had properly imitated the Greeks, ‘we Englishmen likewise would acknowledge and understand rightfully our rude beggerly ryming, brought first into Italie by Gothes and Hunnes’.62 Webbe, echoing Ascham, says that this ‘brutish Poetrie . . . first began to be followed and maintained among the Hunnes and Gothians’ who ‘brought it into Italy’, from where it was ‘at last conveyed into England’.63 Puttenham 59

Hall, Inventing the Barbarian, 187. Peele may also have been recalling Iphigeneia

here. 60 Vickers comments that Peele’s use of rhetoric in his contribution to Titus is less ‘flaccid’ than usual, and that this may have been in part because of Shakespeare’s influence (Shakespeare, Co-Author, 232), but this still seems to undervalue the effective force of Tamora’s speech. 61 The early Quartos do not identify an author, but Francis Meres refers to Titus as one of Shakespeare’s plays in 1598. 62 Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, 289. On Ascham and the evils of Italian fiction see R. W. Maslen, Elizabethan Fictions: Espionage, Counter-Espionage, and the Duplicity of Fiction in Early Elizabethan Prose Narratives (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 41–51. 63 Webbe in Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays (ed.), i. 240.


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gives a slightly different version of this. His fifth chapter is titled ‘How the wilde and savage people used a naturall Poesie in versicle and rime as our vulgar is’, where he argues that ‘our maner of vulgar Poesie’ is even older than classical verse, and in the following chapter he explains that this was itself corrupted by ‘the barbarous conquerors invading [the Roman Empire] with innumerable swarmes of strange nations’. As a result, ‘the ryming Poesie of the Barbarians’ was established in Europe.64 Lastly, Daniel, who presumably knows about the Gothic origins of rhyme, chooses to credit the Goths with further contributions to civilization. In a superb passage from the Defence of Rhyme he repeats his multiculturalist perspective (‘Nor can it be but a touch of arrogant ignorance to hold this or that nation Barbarous, these or those times grosse’), and then assimilates the debate about rhyme to wider issues: The Goths, Vandals, and Longobards, whose coming down like an inundation overwhelmed, as they say, all the glory of learning in Europe, have yet left us still their laws and customs as the originals of most of the provincial constitutions of Christendom, which well considered with their other courses of governement may serve to clear them from this imputation of ignorance.65

The Goths, then, are the mothers and fathers not only of English poetry but also of English law, twin pillars of civilization. What better ancestors for a nation struggling towards cultural self-definition in the face of the massive authority of the classical tradition, newly established in print and transmitted through a greatly expanded education system? 66 That system was, of course, perfectly capable of stimulating rather than stifling creativity, and Titus is certainly a product of such a 64 Puttenham, English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker, 10–12. Andrew Hadfield points out the circularity of Puttenham’s argument about the naturalness of rhyme in Literature, Politics and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 125. 65 Daniel, ‘Defence of Rhyme’ in Selected Poetry, ed. Hiller and Groves, 204. 66 For more on the Goths and English law see Samuel Kliger, The Goths in England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952), 16–26, and on Daniel, the Gothic and English nationalism see Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 21–62. The point is reinforced in an educational context in the eighteenth century by Thomas Sheridan, who also credits the Goths with the introduction of a modern political system (citing the Bishop of Cloyne): ‘Free governments, like our own, were planted by the Goths in most parts of Europe’ (British Education (London, 1756), 522). Roger Mason refers to the English search for a Gothic constitution during the seventeenth century in ‘The Scottish Reformation and the Origins of Anglo-British Imperialism’ in Roger Mason (ed.), Scots and Britons: Scottish Political Thought and the Union of 1603 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 186.

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regime, but that is another story. In so far as it offers a critique of humanism, Titus is very much in tune with Daniel’s Defence of Rhyme, which trains its guns on ‘the tyrannical rules of idle rhetoric’67 and other supposed abuses of eloquence promoted by Erasmus and company. Titus itself is far from being unrhetorical, but it is equally far from displaying a servile obedience to the rules, and in breaking the rules Shakespeare sets out an anti-classical programme for English drama. The first major turning point in the history of Shakespeare’s critical reception is Samuel Johnson’s recognition that ‘the censure which he has incurred by mixing comic and tragic scenes, as it extends to all his works, deserves more consideration . . . Shakespeare’s plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind’.68 The turning point in Titus itself is Titus’ hysterical laughter when he receives the delivery of his sons’ heads and his own severed hand. At this moment his brother voices the neoclassical critic’s objection: ‘Why dost thou laugh? It fits not with this hour’ (3.1.264). Marcus seems here to be invoking the principle of kairos, the Greek term that combines the notion of decorum or decency with opportunity and timeliness, and a prominent theme in Isocrates.69 But academic considerations such as these are merely tyrannical rules. Titus’ laughter and Marcus’ stolid, conventional response pit the new English drama against classical precedents. The play does mix comedy and tragedy: in the grotesque of such lines as ‘Come, brother, take a head; | And in this hand the other will I bear’ (3.1.279–80), or in the malevolent glee of the cookery scene. After the intensity and seriousness of the first act in urban Rome, ceremonial violence followed by violated ceremony, and the atrocities of the second act out in the rural wild, the play is suddenly released into a strange and savage laughter. The messenger who brings the delivery of body parts in Act 3 is a stock figure from classical tragedy; in Act 4 his role is taken by the Shakespearean clown. When the first vernacular version of Aristotle’s Poetics, by Castelvetro (1570), eventually appeared in English, the translator reminded readers that ‘’T would be very barbarous to mix Murders with Comical divertisem*nts’.70 Gothic Shakespeare clearly had a different agenda. Daniel, ‘Defence of Rhyme’, in Selected Poetry, ed. Hiller and Groves, 204. Samuel Johnson on Shakespeare, ed. H. R. Woudhuysen (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989), 125. 69 See Stephen Usher, Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 301. 70 Aristotle’s Art of Poetry, [translator unknown] (London, 1714), 233. 67 68


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Johnson’s vital perception about the nature of Shakespearean drama was that it is heterogeneous, a hybrid creature. Titus fits this pattern, and self-consciously so, because the play is actually about hybridity. The most striking illustration of this is, conveniently, in the illustration —Peacham’s mysterious picture of a scene or scenes from a contemporary performance of the play.71 What we notice is the racial difference, but also the anachronistic mix of costume, the doublet-and-toga effect. Titus is identifiably Roman, while the soldiers are in modern military dress; Tamora wears a medieval-looking gown, while her sons might be in Elizabethan puff-pants or possibly Roman bases. So what the picture records is not simply a translation, ‘spoyled of hys Romayne garment and turned into a playne Englyshe cote’,72 but some cultural cross-dressing. Roman meets Goth, and Goth is styled Elizabethan, if Demetrius and Chiron are in modern English dress, that is. And then we might wonder why Tamora’s sons have Greek names in the first place. Perhaps Shakespeare thought that the Hellenic label would add a touch of class to these barbarian rapists. But if we put these details to one side, what the picture certainly provides us with is a striking visual image of the way in which this play represents difference and assimilation, both ethnically and historically. Its display of heterogeneity maps out the series of cultural conflicts and combinations in Titus and at the same time echoes the play’s generic mix of tragedy and comedy. Perhaps the most flamboyant instance of rule-breaking in the play itself involves the outsider’s outsider, or barbarian’s barbarian, Aaron. Sympathetic parenting is not much in evidence among either Romans or Goths, and least of all in Titus himself, and it is left to Aaron, the absurdly monochromatic villain, to bring a note of ordinary humanity into the shambles. His infant child, born from his adulterous union with Tamora, ought to be a monster of miscegenation, and in a play where all life is cheap this life should be less than worthless. Yet none 71 The drawing is well known and has not been reproduced here. It appears in Bate’s edition, p. 39. On the costumes see Stephen Orgel, ‘The Comedian as the Letter C’ in Michael Cordner, Peter Holland, and John Kerrigan (eds.), English Comedy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 43–5. The most recent reassessment of the drawing is by June Schlueter, ‘Rereading the Peacham Drawing’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 50 (1999), 171–84, who argues that it actually represents a scene from a play about Titus and Vespasian produced in Germany, but the English Titus would have displayed a similar gallimaufry. 72 Leonardo Bruni [Aretino], The Historie of Leonard Aretine, concerning the warres betweene the Imperialls and the Gothes, trans. Arthur Golding (London, 1563), A2v. Despite the subject and the translator this work does not seem to have left any impression on Titus.

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is more strenuously preserved. Aaron refuses to have the child killed, kills to protect him, and flees the city. As Titus’ son Lucius, approaches Rome at the head of an army of Goths, one of his soldiers finds father and child crouched by the wall of a ruined monastery. Twice Lucius reassures Aaron that ‘thy child shall live’ (5.1.60, 69). The moment of tenderness is produced from the most incongruous of circ*mstances, and none is more so than the setting itself. What is a ruined monastery doing on the outskirts of ancient Rome? We must in fact have suddenly time-travelled to post-dissolution Tudor England. While the point of this may not be immediately obvious, the anachronism is undoubtedly part of a pattern of cultural dislocation which can accommodate irreligious piety, humane villainy, and civil barbarism. To stress the play’s anti-classical elements is not meant to obscure the fact that it is visibly the product of a humanist literary and educational culture. The barbarian is the unRoman, but also what may be married to the Roman. As Tamora confidently announces, after her wedding to the Emperor Saturninus: Titus, I am incorporate in Rome, A Roman now adopted happily. (1.1.459–60)

It is not too much of a stretch, I think, to read Tamora’s announcement as a statement also about the new Elizabethan drama: a mixed marriage of the Roman and the Gothic, an English appropriation of the classics. We do not have to equip Shakespeare and Peele with a Jonsonian-style mission statement in order to feel that the play makes a number of deliberate gestures towards its own status as a cultural artefact. Nor do we have to pretend that it is some sort of allegory in order to recognize that the historical and geographical arena in which the emotional dynamics of revenge are performed was chosen, and was chosen to be significant. When they decided to set Titus Andronicus at the time of the fall of the Roman empire and present a conflict between the civilized and the barbarous, Shakespeare and Peele were echoing similar patterns of confrontation in classical tragedy. Edith Hall notes that nearly half of the extant Greek tragedies ‘portrayed barbarian characters, or were set in a non-Greek land, or both’ and that ‘Greek writing about barbarians is usually an exercise in self-definition’.73 Unlike the Greeks, however, Shakespeare in particular, as a ‘grosse, 73

Hall, Inventing the Barbarian, 1.


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vulgare, barbarous’ Englishman, would have been at least as inclined to identify with the outsiders as with the cultural centre, whatever the extent of his classical education. We see again roles reversed, places changed, as in a mirror; a process of renovation, the art of grafting. The alliance between Roman and Goth at the start of Titus, the marriage of Saturninus and Tamora, turns out to be spectacularly unstable, but the appearance of Lucius with the Gothic army at the end of the play promises a different kind of cooperation. It promises, too, a drama that could be described equally as neoclassical and neo-Gothic, an educated barbarism. At the time of Titus England had just begun to free itself from cultural self-doubt; at the time of The Tempest, roughly seventeen years on, the country was a nascent imperial power. So we might expect the perspectives on the civilized and barbarian to have shifted somewhat. Where in Titus the barbarians are set to invade the imperial citadel, in The Tempest civilized Europe embarks on its colonial project, taming the wild. But while an audience might tend now to identify more closely with the cultural centre, in The Tempest there is no centre, nor indeed any firm sense of geographical location at all. Are we on an island near the North African coast, in the New World, in Ireland even (the Ulster Plantation was settled two years earlier), or in an ou-topos, a nowhere that creates a free space for the utopian play of ideas? 74 One thing we do know is that sources for the play are provided by the Bermuda pamphlets and by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The first of these would have produced a colonial context, whatever the ostensible setting. William Strachey’s account of the storm which devastated the Gates-Summers expedition to Virginia in 1609 was eventually published in Purchas His Pilgrimes in 1625. Shakespeare had seen an earlier version of this, and the relation of the Strachey papers to his play has attracted a good deal of discussion.75 However, it is not Strachey but Samuel Purchas himself who supplies perhaps the most telling observation as far as cultural relativism is concerned: Can a Leopard change his spots? Can a Savage remayning a Savage be civill? Were not wee our selves made and not borne civill in our Progenitors dayes?

74 On the last of these see Andrew Hadfield, Literature, Travel, and Colonial Writing in the English Renaissance 1545–1625 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 242–3. 75 See esp. Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988), 147–58.

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and were not Cæsars Britaines as brutish as Virginians? The Romane swords were best teachers of civilitie to this & other Countries neere us.76

At first sight the Roman equation sounds exactly like the point that Marlow makes at the start of Heart of Darkness. But this striking instance of cultural relativism is really only being adduced as justification for colonial depradations of a more immediate nature, and the reference to ‘other Countries neere us’ is both familiar and ominous.77 The boot is indeed on the other foot, and comes equipped with a steel toecap. Purchas offers one uncompromising opinion on the relation between civil and savage. Montaigne, whom Shakespeare had read, takes a quite opposite line, and his humane scepticism adds a further dimension to the rhetorical basis for seeing things from different points of view discussed in the previous chapter.78 There are two passages in The Tempest that clearly derive from Montaigne. They provide contexts, rather neatly, for both Prospero and Caliban. The less well-known one is Prospero’s speech on forgiveness (at 5.1.20), which echoes Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Cruelty’; the other is Gonzalo’s vision of the perfect commonwealth (at 2.1.144), reworked from the essay ‘Of Cannibals’, which is itself a version of Ovid on the Golden Age. The name ‘Caliban’ has been recognized since the eighteenth century as a possible anagram of ‘cannibal’, and perhaps also related to ‘Carribean’,79 but it is Montaigne’s general position on the savage or natural man, rather than specific debts, that is of interest here. Unlike Purchas the Civilizer, Montaigne offers a view that is an epitome of cultural relativism: I find, as far as I have been informed, there is nothing in that nation that is barbarous or savage, unless men call that barbarism which is not common to them [the people he referred to lived on the coasts of Brazil] . . . They are even 76 Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes, 20 vols. (Glasgow: James MacLehose, 1906), xix. 62. 77 See Edmund Spenser, A View of the State of Ireland, ed. Andrew Hadfield and Willy Maley (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 21–2. 78 On Shakespeare and Montaigne see Robert Ellrodt, ‘Self-Consciousness in Montaigne and Shakespeare’, Shakespeare Survey, 28 (1975), 37–50; Arthur Kirsch, ‘Montaigne and The Tempest’, in Gunnar Sorelius and Michael Srigley (eds.), Cultural Exchange between European Nations during the Renaissance (Uppsala: Uppsala University, 1994), 111–21; Fred Parker, ‘Shakespeare’s Argument with Montaigne’, Cambridge Quarterly, 28 (1999), 1–18. 79 See Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan, Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 26–32.


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savage as we call those fruits wild which nature of herself and of her ordinary progress hath produced’.80

These remarks come immediately before the passage appropriated by Gonzalo and they also provide a model for Daniel’s position in his account of ‘rhyme’. But can we tell where Shakespeare stands? I want to answer that by returning to the subject of poetry as a civilizing agent. Post-colonialist readings of this play, though not misleading, have perhaps been a little one-sided. Where Orgel’s 1980s edition of The Tempest focused on colonial issues, Kermode’s 1950s edition placed art and nature at the centre of the debate. In fact, a contemporary audience would surely have regarded these issues as inseparable. Certainly, none of Shakespeare’s plays is more obviously concerned with civil values and their antitheses, with terms such as gentility, nobility, baseness, and slavery. If the political and the aesthetic are a continuum, then a suitable question to join with my earlier question as to why Titus Andronicus is set at the fall of the Roman empire would be ‘Why does Shakespeare end up by allowing what the First Folio refers to as “a salvage and deformed slave” to speak blank verse?’.81 Providing an answer to this would also be to gauge Shakespeare’s likely response to Montaigne. Eighteenth-century editors puzzled over Caliban’s language, which seemed to defy classification. Nicholas Rowe reported that various luminaries had decided that ‘Shakespeare had not only found out a new Character in his Caliban, but had also devis’d and adapted a new manner of Language for that Character’.82 This was variously described as ‘grotesque’ or ‘antique’ and evidence of his brutalized condition. One objector, however, was John Holt, who criticized Warburton’s label (‘antique’) and suggested instead that ‘his Stile is peculiarly adapted to his Origin’.83 The remark is intriguing, but undeveloped, and Caliban’s origins have been subject to much speculation. Prospero tells us that his mother was an Algerian witch, but since her name has never been satisfactorily explained,84 it will not be entirely frivolous to suggest an Michel de Montaigne, Essays, trans. John Florio (London: J. M. Dent, 1946), 219. One account of the play that also ‘recognizes the inescapable affiliation of the political and the aesthetic’ is Russ McDonald, ‘Reading The Tempest’, Shakespeare Survey 43 (1990), 15–28 (see pp. 27–8). 82 Brian Vickers (ed.), Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, 6 vols. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974–81), ii. 197. 83 Ibid. iii. 346. 84 For a summary of the etymologies see The Tempest, ed. David Lindley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 113. 80 81

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etymology that would give her a more civilized status. One figure who might have caught Shakespeare’s eye as he flicked through his rhetoric books is Corax of Syracuse. According to Cicero, Corax was actually the inventor of rhetoric, which emerged after the deposition of a Sicilian tyrant.85 In the disputes over land ownership that followed, Corax established a reputation as the most eloquent pleader of property claims, and so the art of rhetoric was born. This ancestry would certainly give a new inflection to Caliban’s own claim that ‘This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother’ (1.2.333). It would also place his rather baffling linguistic versatility in a different light. Caliban has indeed learned how to curse, and has reached an impressive level of artistry in this particular mode, but he is also capable of the kind of poetry we hear in the speech that ends, wistfully, ‘I cried to dream again’ (3.2.138–46).86 Caliban’s is a versatile eloquence, moving between the furious and the visionary, as Prospero’s does. He has nothing in common in this respect with the ordinary ‘slaves’, Stephano and Trinculo. If stylistic register helps to define status in Shakespeare, it is noticeably unhelpful in the case of Caliban. Editors from the First Folio onwards have struggled to decide which of his speeches should be in verse and which in prose,87 and it remains unclear what sort of creature he is in the first place. He says that he has been taught language by Prospero, but allows him no credit for his poetry, and given Prospero’s own claim that he is ineducable we are more likely to conclude that Caliban is really some sort of primitive bard or barbarous rhymer. This is a point developed by Simon Palfrey in a detailed and stylish discussion of the issue, where he observes that ‘It seems more helpful to think in terms of barbarism . . . his speech evokes both a state of howling unerudition and his subsequent passage into “humanism” . . . His grammar is in part an emulation of Prospero and Miranda, and the monster’s graceful iambic pentameters might be considered a small triumph of civility . . . Caliban remains the perfect hybrid’.88 He could, of course, be Aaron and Tamora’s son, whom Lucius promised would be allowed to live at the end of Titus, but of whom we hear no more. See Cicero, Brutus, 45–6, citing Aristotle. At least one anthology introduces children to Shakespeare through this speech of Caliban’s (see Something Rich and Strange: A Treasury of Shakespeare’s Verse, selected by Gina Pollinger (London: Kingfisher Books, 1995), 9 (‘Power to Charm’)). 87 There is a thoughtful account of the problem in David Lindley’s edition of the play, pp. 233–7. 88 Simon Palfrey, Late Shakespeare: A New World of Words (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 160–3. 85 86


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Perhaps Caliban decided to disguise his parentage by pretending that it was his mother, rather than his father, who came from North Africa. After all, we may remember that Aaron promised his son a nourishing diet of berries, which are an important feature of Caliban’s own lifestyle. But in fact we do not need to indulge in these flights of fancy to find the origins of Caliban’s eloquence. For in the passage where Puttenham claims that ‘our maner of vulgar Poesie’ is more ancient than Greek and Latin verse he also explains that ‘the American, the Perusine, & the very Canniball, do sing and also say, their highest and holiest matters in certaine riming versicles and not in prose’.89 So, whatever his parentage, Caliban, like the Goths, would seem to be part of the English family tree as far as poetry is concerned. The poetry of singing cannibals can always be dismissed as worthless, a barbaric inversion of the real thing, like the poetry of the Irish bards, or Irish vulgar Latin, but I don’t think this is how we are supposed to respond to Caliban’s verse in The Tempest. For one thing, Prospero’s own eloquence is deeply compromised. In the famous speech modelled on Ovid’s Medea, where he demonstrates the full range of his so potent art, he also demonstrates his affinities with the uncivil. Medea is not only a witch, like Sycorax, but also a barbarian. In the passage from the Metamorphoses which precedes the speech imitated by Prospero Medea decides to leave behind her father’s ‘barbarous land’ and ‘become acquainted with all the art and culture of [Greek] cities’.90 For all his elaborate concern with the values of civility, Prospero is perhaps only passing for white, like J. Edgar Hoover. And this is why Prospero and Caliban are reconciled at the end of the play. Prospero’s line ‘this thing of darkness I | Acknowledge mine’ (5.1.278–9) is a statement as much about himself as about Caliban. It is a statement about the darkness within himself and its message reverberates also through Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, articulated finally in its most extreme and laconic form in Kurtz’s last words. In Shakespeare’s play it is also counterpointed by Caliban’s ‘and I’ll be wise hereafter, | And seek for grace’ (5.1.298–9). The two pairs of halflines fall together as a distich, changing places and reversing roles, in a neatly complementary move which echoes the oxymoron as a figure of cultural relativism. Puttenham, English Poesie, ed. Willco*ck and Walker, 10. The Metamorphoses of Ovid, trans. Mary M. Innes (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955), 156. 89 90

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When John Brinsley wrote his sequel to Ludus Literarius, the book that described the kind of provincial grammar-school education likely to have been available to Shakespeare, he extended his horizons to even more barbarous outposts. A Consolation for our Grammar Schooles was written for the inhabitants of Ireland, Wales, Virginia, and Bermuda (‘the Sommer Ilands’), small beginnings of what was to become the British Empire, and all (with the exception of Wales) Tempest territory. Brinsley is keen on ‘Grammatical translations [for] teaching English as well as Latine’, as we saw earlier, and he hopes that, as well as preserving the purity of the English language among the settlers, his book will reach out ‘to the very heathen & savage, brought up amongst them, the more easily thereby to reduce them all (as was said) to a loving civility’. Its lessons should help to correct ‘that inhumanitie . . . of the Irish, the Virgineans, and all other barbarous nations’,91 he adds, and his assertion that language teaching will inculcate ‘humanity’ in these deprived peoples certainly intersects with ideas in Shakespeare’s play.92 Brinsley’s book anticipates the future progress of English as an international language, armed with a civilizing mission as well as more material means of persuasion. But The Tempest itself occupies an earlier stage in the imperial story. Post-colonialist writers take for granted that Shakespeare represents a culturally dominant (and imperially dominating) language, but during his formative years the reverse was true. When Mulcaster wrote, in 1582, that England was ‘no Empire to hope to enlarge [its language] by commanding over c*ntries’, his statement would have seemed self-evident, though he had the imagination to realize that this might not always be the case. Shakespeare’s own writing career spans the two decades in which English moves from Gothic barbarism to Prosperous ascendancy. The Tempest anticipates the future progress of English in imperial mode just as Titus had identified an Anglo-Gothic challenge to the cultural authority of an earlier empire. A residual sense of English barbarism is responsible for Shakespeare’s ambivalence towards both Caliban and Prospero. This is a vital part of the text and one that has been partly obscured by the simpler model of the Prospero/Caliban relationship developed by post-colonialist theory. 91

John Brinsley, A Consolation for our Grammar Schooles (London, 1622), 31, A3v,

B2r. 92 See Jonathan Bate, ‘The Humanist Tempest’, in Claude Peltrault (ed.), Shakespeare: La Tempête. Etudes critiques (Besançon: Université de Franche-Comté, 1994), 5–20.


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The present chapter has offered a series of displacements, opening up different perspectives on the civil and the barbarous. It provides another version of ‘both sides now’. Shakespeare’s ability to see things from different points of view should be placed in the context of a career trajectory that shadows a crucial period in England’s national self-definition, as the country moves from barbarous margin towards cultural centre. What I have also wanted to emphasize is the degree to which anxieties about cultural status are involved with questions of language, eloquence, and poetic form. If rhetoric inevitably ends up in political territory, as the previous chapter suggested, the reverse is equally true. The most basic political question, in the purest sense of the term, would concern the nature of civilization, and for Renaissance commentators that question was constantly referred to the state of the language and literature. In the year after The Tempest, as Shakespeare prepared to retire to Stratford, Thomas Heywood argued that the theatre had played a vital role in the development of civil speech: Our English tongue, which hath been the most harsh, uneven, and broken language of the world . . . is now by this secondary meanes of playing continually refined, every writer striving in himselfe to adde a new florish unto it; so that in processe, from the most rude and unpolisht tongue, it is growne to a most perfect and composed language, and many excellent workes and elaborate poems writ in the same, that many nations grow inamored of our tongue (before despised).93

But the success of both Shakespeare and English was less the result of continual refinement than of their stubborn rudeness, or rather the combination of the two. The mixture of conflict and absorption with regard to classical authority, reflected in double translation, double voice, and even double authorship, was responsible for the strong hybrid that flourished as Britain carved out its empire during the eighteenth century. As the Royal Navy extended British control overseas, a Shakespearean cultural assault was mounted in Europe, where defenders of neoclassicism denounced the English poet as a barbarian invader. That story will be told in the last chapter of this book, but first I want to look at Shakespeare’s part in the vernacular challenge to classical authority in a rather different context, that of the commonplace tradition and the English anthology.


Heywood, An Apology for Actors, 52.


Commonplace Shakespeare 5.1. SHAKESPEARE ’ S COMPUTER

One learned item of Shakespeare scholarship that seems almost designed to create disappointment in the unlearned reader is Walter Ong’s ‘Commonplace Rhapsody: Ravisius Textor, Zwinger and Shakespeare’.1 The title, with its connotations of ordinary ecstasy and the Barthesian ring to the exotic names, sounds very 1960s. In fact, as some readers will know, the article is concerned with Shakespeare’s use of formulaic moral phrases from the classical tradition, a rather less inviting subject. Yet the commonplace tradition and other forms of anthologization, together with the entire field of bibliography and textual criticism, has become a fashionable subject of study. I am tempted to say ‘improbably fashionable’, but the reason for this new interest in such matters is not difficult to find. The computer revolution of the 1990s helped to create a new subject, the history of the book, since it enabled the printed book to be seen as a distinct technological medium rather than as the natural vehicle for the storing and transmission of knowledge. As the conventions of the book evolved, so did reading practices, and in some quarters critical attention has shifted from strategies of writing to strategies of reading. Here, too, the computer has made a silent intervention. Appropriating from both manuscript and print the terminology of scrolling and browsing, the computer has encouraged us to scrutinize and perhaps redefine those activities. Bibliography has embraced media studies, though some toilers in those vineyards are perhaps unaware of such an unholy alliance.2 The true father of this development was Walter Ong, and to a lesser extent his friend Marshall McLuhan, since Ong was exploring the intellectual significance of the orality/literacy, print/computing nexus long before 1 In R. R. Bolgar (ed.), Classical Influences on European Culture, AD 1500–1700 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 91–126. 2 Fewer now as the result of the pioneering work of D. F. McKenzie (see esp. Making Meaning, ed. McDonald and Suarez).


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anyone else.3 The fact that some of his propositions are now being revised should not disguise their importance. If Ong’s Textor article sounds unintentionally 1960s, his Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word sounds distinctly twenty-first century. The impact of all this on Shakespeare Studies has been felt largely in the field of editorial theory.4 What I want to do in the present chapter is to extend that discussion first by assessing Shakespeare’s relationship to the commonplace tradition and then by describing his part in the earliest anthologies of English literature. This will enable us to see Shakespeare as both the product of a Renaissance educational and creative process and the agent of its transformation as he becomes part of the content of the new subject of English. Much of what has gone before feeds directly into this topic. It draws upon the concept of articulation in both its senses, since the commonplace is in the first instance a ‘saying’, but is also a detachable verbal unit that can be reconnected to become part of a new textual whole. The issue of ‘commonness’ itself, and the related questions of originality and plagiarism, have obvious relevance here, as does the subject of creative writing and the methods of composition technique developed by sixteenth-century education. The question of vernacular values also reappears in this context, since the English anthology aimed to replace its classical predecessors with a storehouse of native eloquence, and the subject matter of the controversial plot is a central aspect of the commonplace tradition, as we have just seen. At the same time I want to pursue the analogy with the modern computer; not, as I hope will be apparent, for the sake of a glib contemporaneity, but because the analogy is helpful in reconstructing the past as well as in understanding the present. It helps us to establish some cultural continuity with a habit of mind that might otherwise seem remote and of merely antiquarian interest, and having flagged up that continuity it might then help us to see more precisely the differences and radical discontinuities between our own digital technology and earlier technologies of the word. In a straightforward way the analogy reminds us of the fact that literary activity in 3 More recently, see Lanham, The Electronic Word; George P. Landow, Hypertext 2.0 (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997); Andrew Murphy (ed.), The Renaissance Text: Theory, Editing, Textuality (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000); Rhodes and Sawday (eds.), The Renaissance Computer; and the work of Randall McLeod/Random Cloud. 4 See especially Leah S. Marcus, Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton (London and New York: Routledge, 1996).

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quite different historical periods is shaped, in part, by the material conditions of the text. During the 1990s vast literature databases became available online, planned originally as research resources for scholars, but now increasingly navigated by students of literature to perform pedagogical exercises.5 It remains to be seen how such exercises will affect methods of composition in the twenty-first century. However, the ability of technological innovation to transform radically the literary resources available to scholars and at the same time to shape their writing techniques is not just a recent phenomenon. From the late fifteenth century onwards the power of the new technology of printing was demonstrated in the production of the first literary databases, the indexed gatherings of the Polyanthea and the Poetarum flores; these, together with Erasmus’ De Copia and Adagia and Thomas Cooper’s Latin–English thesaurus, were the kind of materials that Shakespeare would regularly have accessed as part of his education.6 These, we might say, represent Shakespeare’s computer. If thinking about our own new media helps to reconceptualize the media revolution of the sixteenth century, we may find some instructive parallels in what does not happen in the two periods. Although we have frequently been warned that our familiar friend the printed book will not survive in the digital world, there are in fact few signs of its demise at present. In the early electronic era digital communications do not make print suddenly obsolete, but coexist with it. Similarly, in the first age of print the products of the Gutenberg revolution overlap with manuscript technology, orality, and the art of memory. The last of these offered a highly developed system of information storage and retrieval based on the architectural design of the memory theatre, described so fascinatingly in Frances Yates’s famous book.7 This mnemonic system, operating within what was still a highly oral culture, would clearly be challenged by the massive, printed compilations of knowledge, equipped with their own search engines in the form of indexes and other finding devices, that were rolling, albeit rather slowly, from the new presses. So there are really two versions of 5 I have described these in ‘Teaching with the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Databases’, Computers and Texts, 16/17 (1998), 6–8. 6 Evidence for specific debts to these texts was presented by Baldwin in Shakspere’s ‘Small Latine’ (see esp. i. 423, 611–14, 654–6; ii. 176–96, 342–52, 408–16). 7 Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966; repr. Pimlico, 1992).


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Shakespeare’s computer. One is the memory itself, the hardware, trained by rote learning and supplemented by mnemonic aids such as the memory theatre.8 The other is the printed literary database, repeated use of which would lead (and here the analogy falters) to the downgrading of memory capacity just as, in our own day, the exposure to new visual media has led to the downgrading of reading capacity. The second version is the one I am concerned with, because it presents Shakespeare’s creativity as craftsmanship and shows him working, with great imaginative skill, from a stock of inherited material. It shows him working in the commonplace tradition. The concept of the ‘commonplace’ originates with Cicero and Quintilian, who use the term loci communes to refer to the places where you can find persuasive arguments.9 In so far as this comes within the province of rhetoric rather than logic it is the business of invention, the first part of rhetoric. The concept of the commonplace which is relevant to Shakespeare is the rhetorical one that emphasizes its role in discourse and composition, speech and style. We need to give weight to both halves of the term: this is material which is ‘common’ in the sense that it represents a commonly accepted fund of wisdom, the distillation of shared experience, and it is also material that can be found in or assigned to its proper places or headings. As a vehicle for traditional wisdom the commonplace can be considered as an aspect of moral philosophy, and the most frequently reprinted English commonplace-book of the Renaissance period, as we saw earlier, is William Baldwin’s A Treatise of Morall Phylosophie.10 But as the commonplace method became more widespread, the meaning of the term was transferred from the loci or places where suitable matter could be found to the headings or sayings themselves.11 The cultural dominance 8 See Leah S. Marcus, ‘The Silence of the Archive and the Noise of Cyberspace’, in Rhodes and Sawday (eds.), Renaissance Computer, 18–28. The memory theatre of Giulio Camillo described by Yates used images assigned to places in a neoclassical theatre as a mnemonic system (see Yates, Art of Memory, 135–62). 9 Cicero, De Inventione, Bk. II; Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, Bk. V. On commonplace culture in the Renaissance see Crane, Framing Authority and Ann Moss, Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996); in relation to Shakespeare see Marjorie Donker, Shakespeare’s Proverbial Themes (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1992). A special issue of the Yearbook of English Studies, 33 (2003), has been devoted to ‘Medieval and Early Modern Miscellanies and Anthologies in Manuscript and Print’. 10 See p. 22 above. 11 This important step was taken by Rudolph Agricola (see Moss, Printed Commonplace-Books, 73–82).

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of rhetoric in the sixteenth century, and the ideal of copia in discourse, also meant that it could be rather loosely extended to cover a whole range of formulary phrases of the kind assembled by Erasmus in his various educational textbooks. He describes the commonplace method in De Ratione Studii: ‘you will carefully observe when reading writers whether any striking word occurs . . . if there is any adage, historical parallel, or maxim worth committing to memory. Such a passage should be indicated by some appropriate mark’.12 The textual snippets can then be entered in your notebook, or even painted on the walls of your house. In a similar passage of De Copia Erasmus explains, with specific reference to ‘commonplaces’ (loci communes), that once you have arranged this material under the appropriate headings ‘you will have the materials for a speech ready to hand, as you have all the pigeonholes duly arranged so that you can extract just what you want from them’.13 In the dawn of humanist pedagogy in England, this must have seemed a wonderfully effective means of acquiring eloquence, but the method had an inbuilt propensity to debasem*nt. Even within Shakespeare’s lifetime the concept of the commonplace had degenerated into the sense of cliché,14 just as copia was to be downgraded to the mechanical reproduction implied by mere copying. This is not, however, to suggest that Shakespeare’s own engagement with the commonplace tradition was creatively debilitating. Even in our own day cliché can be an imaginative resource. This has been demonstrated with characteristic acumen by Christopher Ricks in the case of writers as popular and as defiantly unpopular as Bob Dylan and Geoffrey Hill.15 So much for the concept. What about the object itself? The Renaissance commonplace-book exists in two forms: one preassembled, printed and presented as a fixed text, though obviously capable of alteration in subsequent editions; the other a blank tablebook (as it was called) for the owner to record his choice passages, observations, jokes, memorable sayings, and what you will. So one is a 12 Erasmus, On the Method of Study, trans. Brian McGregor in Collected Works of Erasmus, xxiv, ed. Craig R. Thompson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978), 670. 13 Erasmus, ‘Copia’, trans Knott, in Collected Works, xxiv, 638. 14 As Ben Jonson shows when Sir John Daw describes Aristotle, absurdly, as ‘a mere commonplace fellow’ (Epicoene, 2.3.52). 15 See Christopher Ricks, ‘Clichés’, in Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks (eds.), The State of the Language (Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1980), 54–63.


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common commonplace-book, enabling many readers to share exactly the same verbal resources, while the other has a personalized, indeed unique, form, though consisting of the same kind of material. In both cases the textual fragments are gathered as an expressive aid and as a means of linguistic empowerment. A few existed in hybrid form, such as John Clarke’s Paroemiologia, which was designed to combine manuscript and print: My earnest request to the Schoolmaster or Reader, who shall make use hereof is, that they would please, to adde, insert, alter, or more aptly place these, or other occurrent Proverbs, as they shall find occasion . . . and to this purpose vacant spaces are left under every head, that alterations might be made, additions inserted.16

This DIY teaching aid is a late example of the genre. One of the earliest and most influential examples of the printed commonplace-book is Nanus Mirabellius’ formidable Polyanthea opus suavissimis floribus exornatum. Starting life as a grammar textbook and aid for preachers, it evolved into a comprehensive reference work on all subjects.17 Here surely is the first literary database, the mother of invention. Its huge list of topics is arranged alphabetically, each beginning with a definition and an etymology, and followed by streams of soundbites from poetry and philosophy. These are variously classed as maxims, apophthegms, examples, emblems, hieroglyphs, and fables. First published in 1503, its many upgrades included the new Polyanthea of 1604, revised by Joseph Lang and published in Leiden, and the state of the art, newest of the new, Polyanthea novissimarum novissima, published in Venice in 1622. Here you can find, under Somnium, somnus, extracts that helped to shape the wistful meditation on sleep in Macbeth, and under Vita and Clementia prototypes for Jaques’ set piece on the seven ages of man from As You Like It and Portia’s speech on mercy inThe Merchant of Venice,18 passages which appear over and over again in even newer anthologies, in a new language, having passed through the Shakespearean fire. But however variable in form, the raw material of the Renaissance anthology was regarded as changeless. On the title 16 John Clarke, Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina (London, 1639), A7v–A8r; see also Adam Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500–1700 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 126. 17 See Moss, Printed Commonplace-Books, 93–5. 18 Nanus Mirabellius, Polyanthea opus suavissimis floribus exornatum, rev. Joseph Lang (Leiden, 1604), 203–10, 1090–3, 1225–34; see Charles and Michelle Martindale, Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity (London and New York: Routledge, 1990), 15–16, and Baldwin, Shakespere’s ‘Small Latine’, 612, 654.

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page of the 1604 Polyanthea there is an emblematic engraving with the caption ‘scientia immutabilis’, and, just visible in the background, the figure of Icarus plunging into the sea, shedding plumes. Despite the renovations, the text has a conservative function. In the words of a much more recent polyanthean work: ‘These fragments I have shored against my ruins.’19 The authority of print conveyed the authority of the ancient languages. Compilations designed for educational use were generally, though not exclusively, in Latin, while most of the manuscript books contain English material. Clarke’s Paroemiologia, which was designed for use in schools, was in fact doubly hybrid, since it combined English and Latin as well as manuscript and print. At the end of the 1590s, however, in a sudden burst of nationalistic self-confidence, a succession of printed commonplace-books entirely in English tumbled from the presses. After the publication of The Orator, a variant of the genre, in 1596, came Nicholas Ling’s Politeuphuia, Wits Common-wealth in 1597, then Francis Meres’s Palladis Tamia in 1598, Robert Allott’s Wits Theater of the Little World in 1599, and in 1600 Allott’s England’s Parnassus and John Bodenham’s much-derided Belvedere. Also published in 1600 was Englands Helicon, edited either by Bodenham or Ling, which is an anthology rather than a commonplace-book, though it comes from exactly the same stable. Taken together, these books constitute the first anthologies of English literature. Not all anthologies are commonplace-books, but all commonplacebooks are anthologies. The term derives from Greek anthos, a flower, and many of these collections are figured as gardens, because, like the bee, you go there to make honey from the flowers. This process, which is described by Seneca in Epistle 84, became the central metaphor in the Renaissance doctrine of imitation. That is why the Polyanthea and the Viridarium illustrium poetarum of Octavian Mirandula (1507), later the Illustrium poetarum flores, the most popular of the Latin literary commonplace-books, are so called. Viridarium means a ‘pleasuregarden’. Belvedere was subtitled ‘The Garden of the Muses’ and England’s Parnassus, ‘The choysest Flowers of our Moderne Poets’. The original meaning of the ‘common places’ was preserved, vestigially, in books that advertised themselves as buildings such as ‘palaces’ (Palladis Tamia) or, more frequently, ‘theatres’, where their expressive wonders were displayed to the reader-spectator. At the same 19

T. S. Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’, l. 430.


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time the ‘theatre’ titles retained some association with the wonderful memory theatres that worked by using architectural places as mnemonic devices. Gardens, in fact, also imply elaborately demarcated space: Bodenham promises the readers of Belvedere that ‘The walkes, alleys, and passages in this Garden, are almost infinite; every where a turning, on all sides such windings in and out: yet all extending both to pleasure and profit’.20 The other most popular metaphor is indicated in the titles ‘Treasury’ or ‘Storehouse’; a thesaurus is, literally, a treasurehouse. The books themselves contain riches, they suggest, and they also offer the promise of a sound investment (‘profit’) to the reader who uses them effectively. And alongside the metaphors implicit in the book titles are those which describe the commonplace method itself—images of weaving, or stitching together, in what Ong referred to as ‘rhapsody’. The commonplace-book and its siblings are texts assembled from parts of other texts, collections of memorable (and memorizable) passages from various authors, rhapsodies that stitch together old phrases in new configurations. To return to the analogy with the computer, they are texts created by cutting and pasting. The most celebrated publication of this kind in English, the apotheosis of the commonplace method, is Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, and it is striking that Burton specifically claims to have avoided what he calls ‘Polyanthean helpes’ in the construction of his database.21 It is a telling phrase, gesturing both to the etymology of ‘anthology’ and, for us, to the modern finding device or search engine. And if he did deny himself the aid even of a seventeenth-century Chadwyck-Healey, it is no wonder that the Anatomy took most of a lifetime to construct. Burton’s Anatomy does, as it happens, contain a handful of extracts from Shakespeare,22 but did Shakespeare himself keep a commonplacebook or ‘table book’? Although we cannot prove that he did, it seems highly likely that all writers in the Renaissance would have relied on a personal compilation of this kind as an aid to composition. They learned the notebook method at school and it would be very odd to abandon the habit as soon as it became of practical use. Among Shakespeare’s contemporaries we know that Nashe kept table-books, because he complained that he was unable to write effectively without John Bodenham, Belvedere or The Garden of the Muses (London, 1600), sig. A3v. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Thomas C. Faulkner, Nicolas K. Kiessling and Rhonda L. Blair (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989– ), i. 318. 22 From Much Ado, Lucrece, Venus and Adonis, and Romeo and Juliet; possibly from Errors and Hamlet (see Burton, Anatomy, vi. 419). 20 21

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them when he was hiding out in Yarmouth; Chapman and Webster certainly kept books of this kind, and Jonson’s Timber, or Discoveries is, of course, still available to us.23 We also know that Hamlet kept a commonplace-book, though it was something he had mixed feelings about. His reaction to the ghost’s account of the dreadful poisoning is that he should erase ‘All saws of books’ from the ‘table’ of his memory in order to accommodate a new act of remembrance. But he immediately follows this by reaching for his ‘tables’ to write down the saw that ‘one may smile and smile and be a villain’. Hamlet is undoubtedly a rather special case, and the source of the contradiction lies in his being on the one hand an individual with a disdain for commonness and a desire for personal authenticity and on the other hand a student with a taste for the philosophical aphorism. I certainly do not intend to infer Shakespeare’s own view of the commonplace tradition from Hamlet’s, but if we consider that tradition in terms of imitation more generally, then, as we saw earlier, with the exception of a few well-known set pieces, his imitative practice would seem to have been of the more atomized or intertextual kind. This was succinctly described by Emrys Jones in his observation that ‘It is often as if, at some deep level of his mind, Shakespeare thought and felt in quotations’.24 Describing Shakespeare’s engagement with the commonplace tradition is not a matter of influence study. It does not involve the identification of passages imitated from author-precursors—a process, incidentally, that generates its own group of metaphors.25 It is much more a matter of circulation, or of verbal change-ringing. Commonplace variation can operate at the small, phrasal level, or thematically and structurally, when the expression itself may be entirely implicit. Both kinds of craftsmanship are evident in Hamlet, where a conflict between uniqueness and commonness is close to the centre of the hero’s consciousness. Paradoxically, the play that we value above all for its peculiarly tenacious sense of selfhood also reverberates with sententious utterance. Hamlet certainly expresses himself in this way. In the case of the most famous of all soliloquies, ‘To be or not to be . . .’, this seems to derive from his academic cast of mind. Commentators have found a number of different analogues for 23 See Works ed. McKerrow, rev. Wilson, iii. 175–6; Franck L. Schoell, ‘G. Chapman’s “Commonplace Book”, Modern Philology, 17 (1919–20), 199–218; C. Crawford, Collectanea, 2 vols. (Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare Head, 1906– ), i. 1–63; ii. 20–46. 24 Jones, The Origins of Shakespeare, 21. 25 See Pigman, ‘Versions of Imitation in the Renaissance’, 1–32.


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Hamlet’s dilemma, almost sufficient to establish its status as a commonplace,26 but it is in the first instance an academic exercise in deliberation, a thesis of the kind described in Chapter 3. Latin versions of ‘To be or not to be . . .’ are recorded as set topics for debate at Edinburgh University in the early 1600s.27 Hamlet follows his opening question with phrases that also have a textbook provenance: ‘Sea of troubles’ can be found in Erasmus’ Adagia as ‘mare malorum’, a Latin version of a phrase from Euripides’ Hippolytus, and ‘stings of fortune’ appears in Barnabe Googe’s translation of Palingenius, a text which in its Latin form featured on many a sixteenth-century grammar-school syllabus and which provides another source for the seven ages of man.28 But Shakespeare revitalizes these inert phrases in transformations that carry them as far away from the classroom as possible. The translation of the relatively trivial ‘stings’—from nettle or bee—into ‘slings and arrows’ propels Hamlet into the midst of real, armed conflict, while taking up arms against ‘a sea of troubles’ casts him in the role of Celtic hero, like Yeats’s Cuchulain, battling impossibly against the oncoming waves. Meditating, solitary, book in hand, Hamlet manipulates the commonplaces to redesign himself, in his imagination, as action man. These phrasal variations, though locally very effective, can also be placed in a much wider commonplace context which thematically informs the play as a whole. On opening the pages of Polyanthea, which Shakespeare would almost certainly have done at some stage, the reader quickly comes upon the heading ‘Actor, actio’.29 Here a distinction is made between actor and author (‘quod actor est qui recitat: Author [sic] vero qui facit opus’), which is followed under Philosophicae sententiae by ‘Omnis virtus actione consistit’ from Cicero’s De Officiis. The distinction opens up a whole range of issues which involve the difference between recitation and creation and between authentic action and feigned performance. These issues are at the very core of Hamlet, and perhaps also at the heart of a division in Shakespeare himself, between his professional roles as both author and 26 See Margreta de Grazia, ‘Soliloquies and Wages in the Age of Emergent Consciousness’, Textual Practice, 9/1 (1995), 76–8. 27 See Roland Mushat Frye, The Renaissance Hamlet: Issues and Responses in 1600 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 188. 28 See Jones, The Origins of Shakespeare, 11–12; Hamlet, ed. Jenkins, 278; Baldwin, ‘Shakespere’s Small Latine’, i. 652–4. 29 Mirabellius, Polyanthea nova, 113.

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actor.30 But I repeat: I am not arguing for ‘borrowing’ here. The material is, simply, common. What this entry in Polyanthea demonstrates is the ability of the commonplace-book to present dramatizable subject matter almost in diagrammatic form through its method of division, distinction, and illustration. It is a storehouse of dilemma. Another way in which Shakespeare seems to be working in the commonplace tradition at the thematic level in Hamlet appears in his handling of grief. In a brilliant essay on the play Philip Fisher describes the unusualness of its movement from grief to anger. There are different ways of accounting for Hamlet’s path among the passions, as Fisher calls it,31 but the commonplace tradition certainly provides one fertile context. It is well known that grief is lessened when shared with others and that grief bottled up will break the heart: ‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue’, Hamlet laments at the end of his first soliloquy.32 However, this vow of silence seems to bring into play a different commonplace; namely, that ‘light cares speak, when mighty griefs are dumb’, to quote Samuel Daniel’s Rosamund.33 This contrary maxim derives from Seneca’s Hippolytus, which happens also to provide a source for the metaphor of the journey from which no traveller returns.34 This second commonplace, that great griefs are silent, is itself unspoken, appropriately enough. It works in conflict with the more familiar observation to dramatize another, equally crucial, set of issues in the play concerned with speech and sorrow. These instances from Hamlet show Shakespeare producing something unique from commonplace material, and if his hero had been able to read the text of his life, his own anxieties about uniqueness and commonness would no doubt have been dispelled. As it is, the anxiety and the grief are finally dissolved in action. Hamlet’s acknowledgement 30 There is some interesting general discussion of the author/actor distinction (and conflation) in Julie Stone Peters, Theatre of the Book 1480–1880: Print, Text, and Performance in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 135–41, 276–93. 31 Fisher, ‘Thinking about Killing’, 43–77. 32 Other examples can be found in R. W. Dent, Shakespeare’s Proverbial Language: An Index (Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1981), 126. 33 Samuel Daniel, ‘The Complaint of Rosamund’ (l. 630), in Selected Poetry and ‘A Defense of Rhyme’, ed. Hiller and Groves, 83. 34 Seneca, Hippolytus, l. 607; for the metaphor of the journey see Hamlet, ed. Jenkins, 491–2. Other English versions of ‘mighty griefs are dumb’ can be found in Suckling, ‘To my Lady E. C. at her going out of England’ (‘great griefs are always dumb’), Thomas Jordan, ‘An Elegy . . . on William Barklay’ (‘Great griefs are silent, whil’st small sorrows speak’), and Edmund Prestwich’s version of Hippolytus (‘Great griefs are best/By silence, little ones by words exprest’, 1.3.17–18).


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that he is prepared both to act and to die is expressed in the simple statement, ‘The readiness is all’ (5.2.168). And although it sounds quite distinct, this is exactly the same sentiment as Edgar’s ‘Ripeness is all’ in King Lear (5.2.11). Slight variations in the formulaic utterance produce very different effects. In Hamlet ‘The readiness’ suggests alacrity, it suggests that he is poised to deliver; aware of death, it is also a sign of life. It should not be understood as world-weariness. After all, he has just said that he will beat Laertes in the duel, as he has been in ‘continual practice’ since his opponent’s going into France. By contrast, the translation of this expression into ‘Ripeness is all’ in King Lear, with its introduction of the organic image and the removal of the definite article, does indeed produce a gnomic quality of resignation. The translation is so complete that the expression has long been admired as the very epitome of Shakespearean wisdom, the last word, as it were, on maturity. Both versions have a biblical source, and the second may draw upon the theme of ripeness in the part of Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique that deals with ‘comforting’: ‘Emong frute we se some appels are sone ripe and fal from the tree in the middest of summer: other be stil greene, and tary til winter, and hereupon are commonly called wynter frute: Even so it is with men, some dye young, some dye old, and some die in their midle age’.35 Readiness and ripeness are linked in Cymbeline when Cymbeline says, ‘It fits us therefore ripely | Our chariots and our horsem*n be in readiness’ (3.5.22–3). Ripeness and rottenness (and it is Gloucester’s reference to rotting that gives Edgar the cue for his remark) are the subject of Touchstone’s sententious reflection, as reported by Jaques in As You Like It: ‘And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe, | And then from hour to hour we rot and rot’ (2.7.26–7). Commonplaces are almost endlessly versatile, and using them creatively requires an intuitive selection of the right nuance at the right time. In this instance, timeliness is itself the theme of the commonplace, varied for dying young in Hamlet and dying in old age in King Lear. Shakespeare’s own timeliness, including his sense of decorum, would demand an entirely separate discussion. Varying the commonplace to suit the moment is one aspect of it. Other commonplace variations are determined by character, by the different kinds of speaker who utters them. Here Touchstone and Jaques are a case in point. The 35 Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique, ed. Thomas J. Derrick (New York: Garland, 1982), 179; see also Mat., 24:44 and Luke, 12:40.

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two types, court fool and well-travelled cynic, might both be thought suitable vehicles for sententious expression. Jaques, in fact, after quoting Touchstone on riping and rotting, refers specifically to Touchstone’s traffic with the loci communes when he says that ‘he hath strange places crammed | With observation, the which he vents | In mangled forms’ (2.7.40–2). He then reveals how envious he is of the licence provided by the fool’s motley. Jaques is fascinated by Touchstone and by his privileged office as the enunciator of aphorisms and proverbial wisdom on the ways of the world.36 But he thinks he can do better, speak more rhetorically, more comprehensively. ‘All the world’s a stage . . .’, the most famous commonplace set speech in Shakespeare, which appears at the end of this scene, is delivered in a spirit of rivalry with the fool. The speech itself, in scholarly editions at least, comes trailing clouds of authority: Polyanthea, Palingenius, the Satellitium of Vives, and John of Salisbury’s Policraticus. But in performance its dramatic effect is conditioned by what happens immediately afterwards. As a counterpoise to Jaques’ withering vision of a blind and toothless senility, the aged but loyal servant, Adam, arrives, braving the dangers of the forest to stick with his master Orlando. Touchstone, too, stays by Rosalind and Celia, acknowledging ruefully that ‘now am I in Ardenne; the more fool I. When I was at home I was in a better place’ (2.4.14–15). Jaques on the other hand has neither home nor loyalties. He is a deracinated character, which is why his speech is contextless, empty and finally irrelevant, and why Touchstone’s observations are rooted in the themes of the play. Shakespeare tends to rework or renovate commonplaces while preserving their ring of truth, but ‘All the world’s a stage’ is meant to ring hollow. It must also be said that deracination is the fate of every commonplace. Shakespeare seems to be aware of that in As You Like It, and it is much more usual for him to absorb this kind of material into the body of the text. He is quite unlike Webster in this respect, whose plays are studded with detachable aphorisms. One of the most interesting of the English commonplace-books to appear at the end of the 1590s, Nicholas Ling’s Politeuphuia, assembles a considerable amount of sententious matter that sounds as though it has come straight from The White Devil or The duch*ess of Malfi. Under ‘Beauty’, for example, you 36 Jaques’ reference to Touchstone as a ‘material fool’ (3.3.28) implies that he is full of sententious matter.


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can find the Websterian similitude, ‘A blacke face with a white garment, is lyke a flye drowned in a spooneful of milke’.37 Ling’s book also contains the observation, ‘There is nothing greevous if the thought make it not’,38 which looks very much like a prototype of Hamlet’s ‘there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so’ (2.2.251–2). But there is a difference between these two kinds of sententiae, other than the fact that the second has been remodelled in the Shakespearean imagination, which might lead us to ask whether a distinction exists within the concept of the commonplace between the proverb and the sentence or aphorism. It could be argued, for example, that the proverb is more likely to derive from oral or folk tradition, while the sentence or aphorism is more scripted, more literary. It may also be the case that proverbial sayings have greater malleability than the literary aphorism. There is not a lot that can be done with the simile of the drowned fly except to present it as a badge of stylistic virtuosity, whereas the second Ling quotation, which is semi-proverbial, is also much more adaptable. Distinctions of this kind suggest a further refinement in our understanding of the commonplace. If there is a difference between the proverbial and the aphoristic, might there also be a category of the pseudo-proverbial—expressions that are designed to sound proverbial but which are in fact just as scripted as the polished aphorisms of the Websterian type? There are certainly signs of this in Politeuphuia, which is a rather sophisticated anthology. One example is the remark that appears under the heading ‘Schoole’: ‘Women prove the best Schoolemaisters, when they place theyr best delights in inst[r]uctions’.39 This sentiment seems to struggle towards commonplace status without quite achieving it. The actual sense remains cryptic, and it is only partially explained by the adjacent sentence, ‘Women ought to have as great interest in Schooles as men; though not so soone as men, because theyr wits beeing more perfit, they would make mens reputations lesse perfit’. These statements do not have the oak-aged flavour of proverbial wisdom, partly on account of their feminist slant and partly because their verbal construction is slightly too elaborate. They may represent an indication that in a culture which values the commonplace, unfamiliar thought will try 37 Nicholas Ling, Politeuphuia, Wits Commonwealth (London, 1597), 28b. Ling was involved in the publication of both early editions of Hamlet. 38 Ling, Politeuphuia, 59b (not recorded by Jenkins, but noticed by F. P. Wilson in ‘Shakespeare and the Diction of Common Life’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 27, (1941), 185). 39 Ling, Politeuphuia, 55.

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to sound platitudinous: lamb dressed as mutton, as it were. That said, the statements themselves have a particular Shakespearean interest. Taken together, they might well have stimulated ideas for that sourceless play on education and gender, Love’s Labour’s Lost.40 Thinking about the commonplace leads towards some fairly fundamental issues concerning creativity and authenticity in literature. One is the question of literary property, much discussed in recent years as the Internet prompts a redefinition of copyright. Another, closer to Shakespeare’s own concerns, is the question of sincerity. Here again Ling supplies an apt quotation, and one that rather neatly links both points: ‘As the seale leaveth the impression of his forme in waxe, so the learned Poet, engraveth his passions so perfectly in mens harts, that the hearer almost is transformed into the Author.’41 The poet goes straight to the hearts of the audience, and the emotions experienced there are reinvented as their own. The hearer becomes the author because the process of reception requires an act of re-creation, one that might be termed appropriation but which is literally heartfelt and therefore quite sincere. This is not really a commonplace, but it does reappear in later cultural contexts, Romantic and modernist, for example, in ways that profoundly affect the conceptualization of the creative process in different periods of history. One group of expressions concerning sincerity (as opposed to property) which undoubtedly does cluster around a commonplace is the one that links heart and tongue. If poetry goes straight to the heart, does it also come straight from the heart? In a culture as thoroughly pervaded by rhetoric as Shakespeare’s was, this was a source of genuine anxiety, which was why Roger Ascham was so concerned about those who neglected expression for ‘matter’ and so made ‘a devorse betwixt the tong and the hart’, as he puts it in The Scholemaster.42 The standard formula for this commonplace appears in Much Ado About Nothing as ‘what his heart thinks his tongue speaks’ (3.2.12–13). There are many other versions, such as ‘The mouth sheweth often what the hert thinketh’, from The Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres.43 The idea is at 40 The play is most unlikely to post-date Ling’s work, but, as with all commonplace collections, assigning a date to the work does not assign a date to the matter contained within it. 41 42 Ling, Politeuphuia, 52b. Ascham, English Works, ed. Wright, 265. 43 Anthony Wydeville, Earl Rivers (trans.), The Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres (London, 1497), unpaginated [fo. 26]. Compare also Spenser: ‘the speach being Irish, the heart must needes bee Irish: for out of the abundance of the heart, the tongue speaketh’ (A View of the State of Ireland, ed. Hadfield and Maley, 71).


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the core of a great many tropes of sincerity and dissimulation in Shakespeare and elsewhere, dissimulation of course being figured as a disjunction between heart and tongue. The basic formula may be varied by introducing the agency of the hand, for the hand is responsible for those deeds that offer proof of the speaker’s sincerity. In Hamlet Claudius suavely combines the different elements as he reassures Laertes that he is as good as his word: The head is not more native to the heart, The hand more instrumental to the mouth, Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father. (1.2.47–9)

The parts slide easily into place in a well-oiled fiction of symbiosis and spontaneity, but this is from a man who, alone and at prayer, knows only too well the discrepancy between heart and tongue. If hypocrisy is an evil, however, the perfect synchronization of thought and deed may not be a virtue, as Macbeth chillingly demonstrates with the words, ‘The very firstlings of my heart shall be | The firstlings of my hand’ (4.1.113–14). With especially productive commonplaces such as this we may start to sense almost limitless possibilities of variation, and a way of closing this one down is to bring it back to Shakespeare himself. The hand may offer money or grip a sword, and it may also hold a pen. Nicholas Ling’s audience heard their learned poet, but poetry is also written, and the hand is sometimes referred to as a surrogate tongue, a ‘writing tongue’, in fact.44 In their tribute to Shakespeare at the start of the First Folio Heminge and Condell claimed that ‘His mind and hand went together, and what he thought he uttered with that easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers’.45 This is a testament to his fluency, but in a commonplace context, and Macbeth notwithstanding, it is also a token of his sincerity. Honest Will, the formula suggests. The text that Walter Ong used as an example of ‘commonplace rhapsody’, to return to my starting point, was Sonnet 129. He argued that the proliferation of epithets in that poem probably derived from Ravisius Textor’s collection Epitheta.46 Although Ong chose to focus on a single sonnet, the sequence as a whole would provide ample illus44 James Shirley, The Royal Master, Act 2; also Ling, again, ‘Writing is the tongue of the hand, and the herrald of memory’ (Politeuphuia, 44b). 45 Shakespeare, Complete Works, ed. Wells and Taylor, p. xlv. 46 Ong, ‘Commonplace Rhapsody’, 121–3.

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tration of Shakespeare’s engagement with a commonplace culture. If Erasmian copia provides the central theme of the early sonnets, as well as its operating principle in terms of style, and so suggests that writing is a natural process, it does so within a commonplace frame of reference. Themes of spending and hoarding, reproduction and closure, writing and planting, remembrance and erasure circulate through the text, constantly reforming themselves in different contexts.47 The table-book itself appears in Sonnet 77, as a present to the Young Man, with the advice, ‘Look what thy memory cannot contain | Commit to these waste blanks . . .’; and again in Sonnet 122, where the speaker tells him (referring, perhaps, to the same book): ‘Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain | Full charactered with lasting memory’. That tablebook gives a material presence to some of the structural and thematic aspects of the text which it would have helped to supply. It is a clue to the reader’s experience of the Sonnets as a dizzying hypertextual world of multiple verbal links and commentary on commentary. Sonnet 77 goes on to promise that when the Young Man’s thoughts have been committed to paper, thou shalt find Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain, To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.

The idea probably derives from Quintilian, who points out that ‘we love all the offspring of our thought at the moment of their birth’, after recommending the notebook method.48 But then imagine Macbeth’s line about ‘the firstlings of my hand’ in the context of the Sonnets, bearing in mind that the expression puns on ‘first-born children’, and the links start to ramify in bizarre directions. Ong, too, reinforces the hypertextual character of this kind of literary production when he suggests that Textor may have been influenced by the associations of his own name with weaving (hence ‘rhapsody’), and when he uses the computer terminology of ‘storage, and retrieval of knowledge’ to describe printed commonplace collections.49 Discussing the commonplace tradition runs the risk of getting lost in a snowstorm of textual fragments. One striking illustration of this hazard, which also helps to illustrate my computing theme, is the case of the classical scholar F. W. Clayton, who died in 1999. Clayton 47 48 49

See also Crane, Framing Authority, 197. Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, 10. 3. 7. Ong, ‘Commonplace Rhapsody’, 120, 107.


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possessed what was perhaps an unparalleled knowledge of Shakespeare’s debt to Latin authors. He was described by his contemporary at King’s College, Cambridge, Alan Turing, the father of the computer, as ‘the most learned man I ever met’, and like Turing he worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.50 By 1942, however, feeling that his war had become a little too comfortable, he volunteered to go to India to break Japanese airforce codes, ‘emending . . . rain-wet manuscripts scribbled down by Indians with blunt pencil in the monsoon’, as he put it later. He went out with no Japanese, but with a plain-text copy of the Corpus Poetarum Latinorum. After the war he became a professor at the University College of the South West, now Exeter University, and embarked on an academic career that was to lead to a single publication (in retirement). This was a lecture given at Exeter in 1977 entitled ‘The Hole in the Wall: A New Look at Shakespeare’s Latin Base for A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The hole in the wall is, of course, the chink through which Pyramus and Thisbe conduct their amorous conversations, but for Clayton it was also the wall between Latin and English which he wanted to bring down. The lecture itself is an extraordinary, stream-of-consciousness rhapsody of verbal nuance and allusion; half way through, there is a sudden pause where he explains that Elizabethans either had Latin poets all together or single authors surrounded by quotations from others. Either way their minds moved easily between the ancients. Echoes inside antiquity, links of word and theme, operate on later memories and imaginations at various levels of consciousness. There’s a sort of creative circle which may be entered at any point.51

But, sadly, much of the lecture sounds like a cross between a scene from The Alchemist and a Beckett monologue: The last Tudor died in 1603. And then—plague, the bubo, foul and horrible, nec saevior ulla pestis, just before Macbeth. The actor Shank—tibia is ‘shank’ in Elyot—had several children. Did they act? I don’t know. Deaths in that family, as of other young actors, could make Flute curiously symbolic. ‘I cannot but remember such things were.’ Ego murus . . . quasi pacem reperiens. Wall? Peace? Battered! Bubo, harpy, hell-kite! All my chickens?52

T. P. Wiseman in The Independent, 24 December 1999 (obituary). F. W. Clayton, The Hole in the Wall: A New Look at Shakespeare’s Latin Base for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1979), 24. 52 Ibid. 26–7. 50 51

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And try this: Martial (10. 51) calls Aries Phryxeus agnus, going on to Taurus and Gemini. But frixus agnus is fried lamb, and what is lamb’s fry? If you were born about April 23, that’s when we move from Aries, patronised by Minerva, who weaves wool and shakes spear, into Taurus, and after Gemini it will be midsummer. Vervex it. Ver vexit. The knit tup goes.53

There are thirty pages of this, and also drawers and cupboards stuffed with notes on the Latin base for the entire Shakespearean corpus—a base which by the sound of it would take immense labour to turn into a database. After hearing the ghost Hamlet vows that ‘from the table of my memory | I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records’. Clayton said, regretfully, ‘I’m not blessed with a good obliterator’. Hamlet promises a tabula rasa, the hard disc wiped clean, a blank notebook, while Clayton was left with a palimpsest preserving layer upon layer of textual accumulation.54 In fact, Clayton’s records of Shakespeare’s debt to Latin literature may well be neither trivial nor fond, but because the material is unfiltered it is almost inaccessible. Without the obliterator what we have is an acute case of information overload. What Clayton was trying to do was to construct an almost limitless hypertext without the aid of a computer, and the result is a nightmare of connectivity. But it remains true that the obsessive textual interplay which he tries to capture is an essential feature of the Shakespearean creative process, programmed by the Renaissance rhetorical ideal of copia and supplied by the printed anthologies and thesauri of the commonplace tradition. The formal structures and compartmentalizing procedures of rhetoric provided the most effective means of controlling this kind of abundance, of coping with copia, but they give us little clue as to the relationship between Renaissance intertextuality and the creative act. How can such lexical diffuseness emerge as poetry? One answer might be suggested by Borges’s story ‘Funes, His Memory’ (or ‘Funes, the Rememberer’) about a young man who is disabled after being thrown from a horse and who then finds that he has Ibid. 29. The palimpsest is described by De Quincey as an image of the workings of the memory, in ‘Suspiria de Profundis’: ‘Everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings, have fallen upon your brain softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet in reality not one has been extinguished’ (Confessions of An English OpiumEater and Other Writings, ed. Grevel Lindop (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 144). 53 54


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acquired the power of total recall. Since the riding accident has evidently smashed the obliterator, Funes is able to remember—literally— everything. This condition reveals itself as the perception of infinite difference: ‘Funes remembered not only every leaf of every tree in every patch of forest, but every time he had perceived or imagined that leaf.’ As a result he devises impossible, mad projects such as ‘an infinite vocabulary for the natural series of numbers’, which randomly assigns a word to every figure. ‘I tried to explain to Funes’, the narrator says, ‘that his rhapsody of unconnected words was exactly the opposite of a number system.’55 The fictional Funes is in a class of his own, far removed from the very real and hapless Clayton. In Clayton’s mental world all texts are at least recognized as being interrelated. But in both cases the precipitation into nonsense comes from an inability to forget. Clayton’s obsessive disarticulation of Shakespeare into his constituent textual fragments shows immediately why forgetting is an essential part of the creative process. In a note on Shakespeare and commonplaces Kenneth Muir remarked, astutely: ‘The great poet, it has been said, is the one who forgets most.’56 Forgetting is selection, elision, coalescence; it turns accumulation into accretion. It is a necessary aspect of what Coleridge called the ‘esemplastic’ or unifying power of the imagination. Like the great anthologies forged in the first century of print, the computer seems a magical device for the storing of texts, the hoarding of knowledge, and there is no doubt that Shakespeare accessed the databases of the commonplace tradition. But all vehicles of information storage and retrieval illustrate the lesson learned by Ovid’s Narcissus (itself a commonplace) that abundance may be impoverishment: inopem me copia fecit (‘plenty has made me poor’).57 Creative forgetting remains the work of the human imagination.


The metaphors of memory, from storehouse to web, are extraordinarily diverse. They take in grottoes, mineshafts, magnets, honeycombs, 55 Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (London: Penguin, 2000), 136. Borges also wrote a story called ‘Shakespeare’s Memory’ about a German scholar who receives the gift of Shakespeare’s entire experience. 56 Kenneth Muir, ‘Shakespeare among the Commonplaces’, Review of English Studies, NS 10 (1959), 283–9. 57 Ovid, Metamorphoses, iii. 468.

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and dovecotes, as well as the computer, and they are conceptually very flexible.58 All of these metaphors may also be grouped in the category of resources, though the very mention of that term, with its economic and managerial resonances, is likely to erase all thoughts of the richly figured world of memory. At some point in the past ‘resources’ was used mainly to refer to mineral deposits and other kinds of natural wealth. International economic organizations would speak of the world’s resources in oil or copper. But then the term started to permeate almost every aspect of modern working life, not least education, ending up as a crude euphemism for money. Eventually people too became resources, and personnel departments were renamed ‘human resources’ in order to distinguish human beings from computers or buildings. However applied, ‘resources’ denotes exploitable wealth, usually inadequate or unavailable. The dispiriting modern associations of the term disguise what ought to be a wholly positive concept. In the Renaissance many of its applications are captured, figuratively at least, in the alternative term copia. As with modern ‘resources’, Renaissance copia suggests, through its semantic associations with opulence,59 that human creativity requires material underpinning and sustenance. As we saw earlier, eloquence was to be supplied by natural resources (gardens), or economic ones (treasuries), or perhaps both, as in the case of William Vaughan’s The Golden Grove. The commonplace-books and anthologies figured in this way are resources designed for exploitation, and as such they illustrate perfectly the concept of cultural capital formulated by Bourdieu and deployed to great effect by John Guillory.60 Education is the vehicle through which a vernacular literary canon becomes the cultural capital of the middle classes, and its most elementary form of transmission is through the textbook anthology. The question here is whether this is a form that can be seen to evolve in significant ways. We might reasonably imagine that a history of anthologization from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries would be conceptually rather 58 See Douwe Draaisma, Metaphors of Memory: A History of Ideas about the Mind, trans. Paul Vincent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). In the case of the dovecote I would add that it functions both metaphorically as a classification system and actually as a resource, the pigeon-holes housing a food supply for the winter months. 59 On the etymology of copia see Terence Cave, The Cornucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979), 3–5. 60 See Bourdieu and Passeron, Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, trans. Nice; John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993).


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meagre. A survey from Valla’s Elegantiae linguae Latinae (1441–9) to Vicesimus Knox’s Elegant Extracts (1784) might suggest a virtually timeless genre of perpetual reproduction—scientia immutabilis, as the Polyanthea had it—where only the language has changed. But the move to the vernacular also brought with it changes in the nature and function of the commonplace-book and other kinds of anthology. The anthologization of Shakespeare from his own lifetime to the late eighteenth century provides a model for those changes in several ways. The first English anthologies emerge at the end of what is arguably the pivotal decade in the entire history of English literature, the 1590s. These are not, of course, the first poetic miscellanies or collections of verse in the vernacular, but they are the first books to promote the idea of a distinctive national literature and to present this in terms of resources for English. The series of ‘Wit’ books produced between 1597 and 1599 by Nicholas Ling, Francis Meres, and Robert Allott, followed in 1600 by England’s Parnassus, England’s Helicon, and Belvedere, have the status of an announcement. Coinciding with Hamlet, these volumes celebrate the birth of a national literary canon and offer the reader access to ‘the choysest Flowers of our Moderne Poets’.61 In these works the authority which had guaranteed the cultural value of Latin texts, excerpted and tabulated in countless commonplace-books, is for the first time transferred to English. This is the ‘Renaissance’, and Shakespeare is central to it. Romans are translated into their English equivalents, with Shakespeare prominent as early as 1598. In Francis Meres’s exhaustive list of comparisons between ancients and moderns Shakespeare takes the laurels from Ovid for love poetry and from Plautus and Seneca for comedy and tragedy; he is already, according to Meres, ‘among the English . . . the most excellent in both kinds for the stage’. In addition, Meres claims that Shakespeare’s writing has class and quality: ‘As Epius Stolo said that the Muses would speake with Plautus tongue if they would speak Latin: so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase if they would speak 61 Robert Allott, England’s Parnassus (London, 1600), title page. Richard Terry has also argued that the idea of a national literary canon predates the eighteenth century (see ‘The Eighteenth-Century Invention of English Literature: A Truism Revisited’, British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 19 (1996), 47–62, and Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past, 1660–1781 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 35–62). The original essay prompted a lively debate (see ‘Forum: Literature, Aesthetics, and Canonicity in the Eighteenth Century’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 21/1, 21/3 (1997), 80–107, 79–99).

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English’.62 The term is echoed in Jonson’s admiring reference to his ‘true-filèd lines’ 63 and implies a quality of refinement, while the comparison with Plautus, who was certainly used to help Elizabethan children speak good Latin, suggests that Shakespeare too could be used in an educational context to promote the vernacular. It is not often remarked upon that Shakespeare was anthologized during his own lifetime, yet alongside critical acclaim this is the first step towards canonization. The anthologization takes different forms. One is represented by The Passionate Pilgrim, piratically published under Shakespeare’s name by William Jaggard in 1599, which includes two Sonnets, three extracts from Love’s Labour’s Lost, and a miscellany of poems by other people. The other is represented by printed commonplace-books such as England’s Parnassus and Belvedere. England’s Parnassus arranges passages from Sidney, Spenser, Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Drayton, Daniel, and many others under topics from Albion, Angels, and Ambition to Winds, Winter, and Youth. This is followed by more passages under the headings ‘Poeticall Descriptions’ and ‘Poeticall Comparisons’. Shakespeare is represented by Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, Romeo and Juliet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II, Richard III, and the Sonnets, as yet unpublished. The voluminous Belvedere is different in various ways. The extracts themselves are extremely brief, one or two lines each, so the book has the character of a collection of aphorisms rather than an anthology of passages of poetry, and, unlike Allott, Bodenham prefaces his own compilation with a number of admiring verses from friends and supporters to advertise the importance of his work. Belvedere is a ‘Trophee hung with divers painfull hands’, according to Robert Hathway.64 William Rankins, who seems to have been reading The Merchant of Venice, describes the book as a ‘casket’ full of wealth and invites the reader to ‘Looke first, then like, survey, take one or all; | Choose with the mind, the eye is fancies ball’.65 But the most bizarre puff is the dedication to the University of Oxford which offers an interesting remake of the anthologist as honey-producing bee:

62 ‘Palladis Tamia’ in Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, ii. 318. Thomas Heywood spoke approvingly of Meres’s scheme of comparison in An Apology for Actors, 44. 63 Ben Jonson, ‘To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author Mr William Shakespeare’, l. 68. 64 Bodenham, Belvedere, A7v 65 Ibid. A7r. .


Commonplace Shakespeare Those flowing wits that bathed in thy foord, And suck’t the honie dew from thy pure pap: Returne their tribute backe into thy lap . . . 66

Bodenham himself was not a graduate of either university, though he was yet another pupil of Mulcaster’s,67 and it is unlikely that Oxford would have been flattered by this imaginary exchange of bodily fluids. (Perhaps the most delicate way of explaining it is to say that it combines the imagery of Tintoretto’s ‘Origins of the Milky Way’ with Titian’s ‘Danae’.) Nor would the University have been impressed by the authors represented by Bodenham. It was shortly to receive the bequest from Sir Thomas Bodley, founding the Bodleian Library, which stipulated that plays should form no part of the collection. Bodenham, however, was rather more interested in the drama than Allott and Belvedere includes some surprising sources such as Arden of Feversham and Jonson’s The Case is Altered. There are bits and pieces from Marston, Marlowe, Nashe, Kyd, Peele and Greene, but the author with the largest number of quotations is Shakespeare, beating even Spenser into second place.68 Shakespeare’s prominence in Belvedere may not have won him academic respectability, but it certainly establishes him as a prime site for the gathering of English eloquence, and before long this reputation acquired some gravitas from an unlikely quarter. The idea that Shakespeare’s plays were themselves repositories of commonplace wisdom, like their classical ancestors, is rooted in a story which, though anecdotal, was particularly tenacious and which became part of the process of Shakespeare’s canonization. The story concerns John Hales, an outstanding Greek scholar who was credited by Clarendon with having done much of the work for Savile’s edition of Chrysostom, one of the first great monuments of English classical scholarship. Described by Anthony Wood as a walking library and by Andrew Marvell as ‘one of the clearest heads and best prepared breasts in Christendom’, Hales became University Lecturer in Greek at Oxford and then a Fellow of Eton.69 According to Dryden it was this Olympian scholar who offered 66

Bodenham, Belvedere, A8v. See Franklin B. Williams, Jr, ‘John Bodenham, “Art’s Lover, Learning’s Friend” ’, Studies in Philology, 31 (1934), 198–214. 68 The quotations are unattributed, but there is a copy of the 1875 reprint in the British Library with interleaved manuscript pages listing all the sources (shelfmark C.116.e.14). The copy was presented by Charles Crawford to R. B. McKerrow, who notes that Crawford was responsible for tracing all but a handful. 69 Dictionary of National Biography, xxiv, 30–2. 67

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the opinion that ‘there was no subject of which any Poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better done in Shakespeare’.70 Nahum Tate developed the tale when he wrote to Edward Tayler in 1680 (in the preface to his tragedy The Loyal General): ‘I cannot forget the strong desire I have heard you express to see the Common Places of our Shakespeare, compar’d with the most famous of the Ancients’, adding that Hales had claimed that from Orpheus onwards nobody had performed as well as Shakespeare in this department.71 The idea of a competition between Shakespeare and the ancients based on their wealth of topics and commonplaces was further embellished early in the eighteenth century by Charles Gildon, the anthologist and tireless promoter of English poetry and drama. Gildon staged the trial at Eton itself, in Hales’s chambers, at some point before 1633, where Shakespeare’s supporters, led by Sir John Suckling, confront Ben Jonson and others, backed up by an army of classical tomes. A thorough ‘disquisition’ ensues, and Gildon recounts with satisfaction that ‘the Judges chosen by agreement out of this Learned and Ingenious Assembly unanimously gave the Preference to SHAKESPEARE’.72 In the eighteenth century the story of the victory of the Shakespearean over the classical commonplace becomes entrenched in tradition. It is included in Rowe’s biography appended to the first edited collection of Shakespeare in 1709 (if we exclude the four seventeenth-century Folios), and Gildon repeats it the following year in an additional volume to that edition where he gives the first critical survey of all Shakespeare’s works. It appears in Pope’s Shakespeare and resurfaces throughout the century. In spite of his long-standing reputation as the poet of nature, Shakespeare entered the eighteenth century, and his place in the canon, brandishing an academic trophy. A rather different kind of establishment from Eton was the blue house at Hadley, a small private school near Barnet, where Joshua Poole taught in the 1640s. It was here that Poole wrote, or compiled, an extraordinary work called The English Parnassus: or, A Helpe to English Poesie, published posthumously in 1657, as well as English Accidence (1646) and Practical Rhetorick (1663), which acknowledged Erasmus’ De Copia as a model. The author of the preface to the English 70 ‘An Essay of Dramatick Poesy’ [1668], in The Works of John Dryden: Prose 1668–91, ed. Samuel Holt Monk (Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1971), 56. 71 Vickers (ed.), Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, i. 341. 72 Ibid. ii. 66–7 (‘Some Reflections on Mr. Rymer’s Short View of Tragedy’).


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Parnassus suggests a humanist provenance for that work too, explaining that it is ‘somewhat in imitation of Textors in the Latine’ and ‘not unlike that of Thesaurus Poeticus’, but also claiming that ‘the design is absolutely new, there having not any thing of this kind appeared on the English stage before’.73 The design is certainly striking, and consists of an alphabet of monosyllables (for rhymes), a thesaurus of epithets (for variation), and then a vast poetical rhapsody that stitches together borrowed and original verse under different topic headings. This last is much the longest section of the book and is often quite surreal. These lines on ‘Aire’ are relatively restrained: The ware-house, shop, mint, treasure-house of winds, The throne of night and day, the wardrobe of the rain . . . 74

but the long section on ‘Breasts’, amazing in itself for a school anthology, is a much wilder mixture of cliché, bizarre invention, and borrowing: Loves Hesperides, soft ivory, warm snow. Bottels of melted Manna. Venus Alpes, The box where sweets compacted lie White silken pillowes, where Love sits in soft delights.75

Here it is George Herbert’s devotional poem ‘Vertue’ which is outrageously misappropriated. Shakespeare is plundered at many other points, most extensively in a passage based on Macbeth: The treble shades begin to damp The moistened earth, and the declining lamp invites to silence: Light thickens And the crow makes wing unto the woods76

This section on ‘Evening’ reworks a lot more of Macbeth, too much to quote here, and is quite subdued. The general tenor of the work, however, is suggested by Poole’s verse introduction, which indulges in an exuberant fantasy that the book will offer ‘a milkie way to Poesie . . . Hippocrene within the dugge’, and so impress itself on young minds that they will learn to speak naturally in verse.77 The object of the 73 Joshua Poole, The English Parnassus [1657] (Menston: Scolar, 1972), A8r. (The title page misprints his first name as ‘Josua’.) 74 Ibid. 234. 75 Ibid. 267. (Cf. ‘Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses, | A box where sweets compacted lie’, ll. 9–10.) 76 Ibid. 286. (Cf. Macbeth, 3. 2. 51–2) 77 Ibid. A5r-v.

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English Parnassus is to develop expression, and there is a little of Bodenham here as ‘expression’ is understood in its most literal, physiological sense. Breast fixation is not the only aspect of Poole’s work that would have failed to conform with Augustan criteria of taste. The modern reader may well be reminded of Keats and of the kind of imaginative gaucheness stimulated by his response to Shakespeare. And while Poole’s educational experiments at Hadley might seem marginal, his book was remarkably long-lived. There were two issues in 1657, a second edition twenty years later, and another in 1678. William Oldys comments on it, though disapprovingly, in 1738 and Solomon Lowe refers to it in 1755, almost a century after its first publication.78 Another educational writer, Charles Hoole, who had been a contemporary of Poole’s at Wakefield Grammar, recommended it in the fourth form alongside Ling’s Wit’s Commonwealth, which he was still using for double translation as late as 1660.79 Hoole himself, however, was regarded by T. W. Baldwin as symptomatic of the eclipse of humanist educational ideals in the later seventeenth century, as grammar began to supersede rhetoric. Baldwin’s comment is grimly melodramatic: ‘The literary spirit of Erasmus had departed. The Renaissance was no more. The Eighteenth Century stood on the threshold.’80 But a browse through Poole’s work will establish that this can only be a half-truth. Baldwin notwithstanding, the story of Shakespeare and the Eton Disquisition and the use to which he was put at Joshua Poole’s more modest establishment both indicate the persistence, throughout the sevententh century, of Renaissance habits of mind in education. One aspect of this is a focus of interest in the detachable part rather than the organic whole. Plutarch’s essay on ‘How a young man ought to hear poets and how he may take profit by reading poems’, which was very widely known in Elizabethan England, advocates the extraction of capsules of moral matter from the verse.81 Erasmus’ literary and educational writings were dedicated to the trasmission of classical culture 78 Ibid., prefatory note by J. R. Turner. See also Ian Michael, The Teaching of English from the Sixteenth Century to 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 153. I am much indebted to Michael’s research on early English textbooks. 79 Charles Hoole, A New Discovery of the Old Art of Teaching Schoole [1660] (Menston: Scolar, 1969), 157–9, 164–5; see also Baldwin, ‘Shakespeare’s Small Latine’, ii. 400. 80 Ibid. i. 454–5. 81 See John M. Wallace, ‘ “Examples are Best Precepts”: Readers and Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Poetry’, Critical Inquiry, 1 (1974), 273–90.


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in small, manipulable units. Polyanthea and the entire commonplace tradition encouraged this atomized view of literature. Jonson’s own commonplace-book actually ends, defensively perhaps, with a reflection on the relationship between the parts and the whole: For the whole, as it consisteth of parts, so without all the parts it is not the whole; and to make it absolute is required not only the parts, but such parts as are true. For a part of the whole was true, which, if you take away, you either change the whole, or it is not the whole.82

Jonson’s awareness of this issue is reflected in his choice of ‘Timber’ as the alternative title for his book, since one purpose of collecting timber is to constuct a building.83 All of these attitudes are based on the understanding that reading is the acquisition of resources. At the same time such a view meant that the distinction between reading and writing was blurred: reading was directed towards and part of the process of composition. Nicholas Ling’s aphorism on the emotional impact of poetry transforming audience (or reader) into author illustrates the point. Milton apparently reverses the observation in the poem on Shakespeare which he wrote for the 1632 Folio, where he says that the deep emotional impression carved by Shakespeare’s lines on the hearts of his readers turns them into marble monuments to the author. Yet this more passive theory of reception is belied by Milton himself in a great deal of his early work, where lines such as ‘millions of spinning worms, | That in their green shops weave the smooth-haired silk | To deck her sons’ show how creatively he read Shakespeare.84 Of course, the relationship between writers of this class is hardly representative of more average habits of reading and writing in the Renaissance. Nor did Milton acquire his taste in Shakespeare from commonplace collections. But the Shakespearean style of metaphor is very similar to the kind of imaginative material that Poole was later to promote in the English Parnassus. For the English anthology to achieve textbook status education had to reorientate itself towards the vernacular and allow it comparable standing with the classics. But, with the exception of a pioneer such as Poole, the academic repackaging of Shakespeare actually took place before he found his way into the classroom. Michael Dobson describes Ben Jonson, ed. Donaldson, 594. On the associations of ‘timber’ see Walter J. Ong, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958), 118–19. 84 A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle, ll. 715–17. 82 83

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this as a process of commodification and cites Gildon’s Complete Art of Poetry (1718), which contains ‘Shakespeariana: or Select Moral Reflections, Topicks, Similies, and Descriptions from SHAKESPEAR’, as its first example.85 But it is really part of an older tradition of commonplacing. In Gildon’s case this would seem to reflect the importance he attached to the Eton Disquisition story and the need to demonstrate Shakespeare’s value by itemizing his resources. Paradoxically, while Shakespeare was being constructed as a natural genius, free of academic baggage, the works had already been processed for commonplace consumption in the likes of Belvedere, and by 1714, long before he becomes institutionalized, he had acquired the trappings of the scholarly edition. This development was initiated by Nicholas Rowe in 1709, and, as a way of complementing the illustrations to the text, which presented theatrical highlights, the second edition of Rowe’s Shakespeare offered ‘a Table of the most Sublime Passages in this Author’.86 In Pope’s edition (1723–5) this academic apparatus was greatly expanded and the illustrations dropped, reorientating Shakespeare from stage to page, or from the theatre to the armchair, the library and eventually the lecture room. Pope’s anatomy of the Shakespearean corpus produced the following comprehensive set of tables under the general heading, in volume six, of an ‘Index of the Characters, Sentiments, Speeches’: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Characters of Historical Persons Index of Manners, Passions and their external Effects Index of fictitious Persons, with the Characters ascrib’d to them Index of Thoughts, and Sentiments Speeches. A Table of the most considerable in Shakespeare. Index of Descriptions, or Images, 1) Places, 2) Persons, 3) Things 4) Descriptions of Times and Seasons 7. Index of some Similies and Allusions87 85 Michael Dobson, The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660–1769 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 119. 86 The Works of Mr William Shakespear, ed. Nicholas Rowe, 2nd edn., 8 vols. (London, 1714), title page; this was redescribed in volume eight as ‘An Index of the most Beautiful Thoughts, Descriptions, Speeches etc in Shakespear’s Works’, viii. R8r. On the printing of the early edited collections of Shakespeare see Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), ch. 3. 87 The Works of Shakespeare, ed. Alexander Pope, 6 vols. (London, 1723–5), vi. Ffffff1. Pope had earlier given similar treatment to Homer, and he also created a series of heads for Beaumont and Fletcher. On Pope’s identification of ‘shining passages’ see Margreta de Grazia, Shakespeare Verbatim; The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 196–7, 216–17.


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Pope had begun his preface by pointing out that Shakespeare offered the critic ‘the most numerous, as well as the most conspicuous instances, both of Beauties and Faults of all sorts’, so that he could be used ‘to form the judgement and Taste of our nation’.88 Fifty years later Thomas Sheridan would also argue that it was important for educational purposes to point out Shakespeare’s faults as well as his beauties.89 Pope’s alternative procedure was to demote inferior passages to the bottom of the page so as to leave the national literary monument untarnished. Pope’s edition is instrumental in the process of Shakespeare’s canonization for two reasons. In the first place it presents Shakespeare whole—restored and cleansed of faults—but with a full set of anthological equipment. The reader is given a complete Shakespeare, but also the means to dismember him again. So the commonplace tradition has been assimilated into the editorial tradition at the moment (in Shakespeare’s case) of its inception. In the second place it makes a clear statement about Shakespeare and education. The works aim to offer resources for the improvement of the nation’s literary taste, while the tables at the end provide pathways for the student. Pope’s own last major work, The Dunciad: Book IV, was to be an acid denunciation of the elite English educational institutions, their failure to stimulate creativity, and their supine dedication to the performance of mechanical mental tasks: With the same cement, ever sure to bind We bring to one dead level ev’ry mind.90

Indeed, Baldwin may have been thinking of Dunciad IV when he delivered his terse summary on Charles Hoole. Eventually, as Pope perhaps foresaw, Shakespeare would become an agent of revitalization as educationalists began to realize the value of the vernacular. What is important to emphasize here is that it is probably misleading to draw too strict a demarcation line between educational and non-educational contexts. Formal education, and the elite institutions in particular, certainly resisted the vernacular, but the many small private schools, such as Joshua Poole’s, were free to be more adventurous. And at the same time the professional literary world was servicing a desire for selfimprovement among the reading public by publishing poetry and drama in textbook form. This was true even in Shakespeare’s own life88 90

89 Works, i. i. Thomas Sheridan, A Plan of Education (London, 1769), 101. The New Dunciad (1742), ll. 267–8.

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time. Books like England’s Parnassus and Belvedere, or, in a different vein, The Orator, were the early modern equivalents of the Home University Library and Everyman. The production of this kind of book is intermittent from the late 1590s to the time of Pope. There is little between William Wrednot’s Palladis Palatium (1604), the last of the ‘wit’ series, and 1655, when John Cotgrave’s English Treasury of Wit and Language appeared. This is the first book to present English drama exclusively as a commonplace resource: it is ‘Collected out of the most, and best of our English Drammatick Poems; Methodically digested into COMMON PLACES For Generall Use’, Cotgrave says, in a standard formulation. The writers represented look similar to the modern canon of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. There is Jonson, Marston, Webster, Dekker, Chapman, and a lot of Massinger, perhaps reflecting the rhetorical character of his drama, as well as his high status in the mid-seventeenth century. There is a good deal of Shakespeare. Cotgrave’s is also a product that occupies the border territory between print and manuscript. Two British Library copies have extensive annotations: one on facing blank leaves where the writer has added his own commonplaces and observations (as on Portia’s ‘The quality of mercy is not strained’), the other with no blank pages, but where the owner has identified the sources.91 Here, then, is another example of the English anthology as home educator. With regard to Shakespeare himself, the most extensive early anthologization never found its way out of manuscript. John Evans’s ‘Hesperides, or The Muses Garden’ was entered in the Stationer’s Register in the same year as Cotgrave, but never published. The original manuscript, which ran to over a thousand pages and probably contained nearly 14,000 quotations, was dismembered in the nineteenth century by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps and pasted into scrapbooks in what amounted to a double dispersal of the Shakespearean corpus. The scrapbooks ended up at the Shakespeare Library in Stratford and at the Folger in Washington.92 BL G.16385 and 1451.c.49. See Gunnar Sorelius, ‘An Unknown Shakespearian Commonplace Book’, The Library, 5th ser., 28 (1973), 294–308; Evans was identified in Peter Beal, Inde of English Literary Manuscripts (London: Mansell, 1980), i/2. 450. The Folger collections can be found at MS V.a.95, V.b.93, and V.a.79–80. The earliest collection of quotations from Shakespeare in manuscript is by Edward Pudsey, who died in 1613 (see Richard Savage, Shakespearean Extracts from ‘Edward Pudsey’s Book’ (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1887) ). See also Hilton Kelliher, ‘Contemporary Manuscript Extracts from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1’, English Manuscript Studies, 1100–1700, 1 (1989), 144–81. 91 92


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From the turn of the eighteenth century the output of printed collections multiplies. Edward Bysshe’s Art of English Poetry came out in 1702, Gildon’s Complete Art of Poetry in 1718, Anthony Blackwall’s Introduction to the Classics also in 1718, the Thesaurus Dramaticus in 1724, and Thomas Hayward’s The British Muse in 1738. The last of these contains a preface by the antiquarian William Oldys which gives an appraisal of the whole genre from the Elizabethans onwards.93 Bodenham and Allott are censured for not attributing their extracts to authors and Bodenham for being too ‘penurious’. Cotgrave is also criticized for ‘his cunning in concealing his authors’, while Poole is dismissed as an ‘elaborate piece of poetical patchwork’. Bysshe is said to provide merely ‘the mechanick tools of a poet’, almost completely ignoring the age of Shakespeare, and even Gildon, who is rather vaguely faulted for being too thin, is accused of not offering enough ‘of the sublime images and sentiments of that divine and incomparable poet’.94 Oldys’s review of ‘the poetical Commonplace Books hitherto published’ suggests that the apotheosis of the genre would be reached in a showcase for Shakespeare, but he has little to say about the nature and function of the genre itself. Nor does he comment on the Thesaurus Dramaticus or Blackwall, two rather interesting collections in this respect. The Thesaurus Dramaticus advertises itself as ‘for the Benefit of young Gentlemen’ to help them avoid ‘Similies, which have been worn thread-bare by a Sucession of Authors, though poorly disguis’d, and barbarously maim’d at the same Time’. It claims to confine itself to tragedy on the grounds that ‘this Part of the drama is a sort of poetry peculiarly adapted to the Martial genius of the British Nation’, and it offers large helpings of Shakespeare, including several comedies.95 Very few of Shakespeare’s contemporaries are represented, so he is now pre-eminent, with Beaumont and Fletcher running second. Blackwall’s book came out a little later and was highly successful, with five further editions appearing to 1746 and a reissue edited by William Mavor as late as 1806. Blackwall, who was a schoolmaster at Market Bosworth, had a mission: ‘my Design was to reform Rhetoric from the Rubbish and Barbarism which it lies under in the common Books; and to reduce it to a liberal and rational Science’.96 What Blackwall does is 93 See Norman Hidden, ‘Thomas Hayward and The British Muse’, English, 37 (1988), 217–23. 94 Thomas Hayward, The British Muse, 3 vols. (London, 1738), vol. i, pp. vi–xvii. 95 Anon., Thesaurus Dramaticus (London, 1724), ii–iv. 96 Anthony Blackwall, An Introduction to the Classics (London, 1725), A3r.

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to naturalize the figures and explain them in common language. He then looks at how the poetry actually works. Comparing Spenser with Virgil, whose words ‘naturally express the enormous Bulk, and brutish fierceness of that misshapen and horrid Monster [the Cyclops]’, he comments on ‘the hissing Letter . . . harsh Elisions, and heavy robust Syllables’ in that description.97 If the Thesaurus Dramaticus aimed to invigorate the expressive skills of British youth in a manner suited to the military spirit of the nation, Blackwall’s agenda was to move rhetoric in the direction of modern practical criticism. The Thesaurus is not, in fact, particularly innovative, but Blackwall’s book is specifically intended to revitalize a stale genre. Formal schooling in the age of Pope may indeed have been as grim as he depicts it in Dunciad IV, but there is also a new note of inspiration in the anthologies which, along with Pope’s own edition of Shakespeare, quite clearly had an educational function of a more broadly based kind. The nature of the resources on offer in these books has also been redescribed. Gildon explains that ‘the Design of my Collection, is to give the Reader the great Images that are to be found in those of our Poets, who are truly great, as well as their Topics and Moral Reflections’.98 And, although Oldys’s preface to Hayward claims (unreasonably) that Gildon has under-represented Shakespeare’s ‘sublime images and sentiments’, the significant point is that the anthologists share an understanding of what is valuable. The shift of the commonplace from topics to images, and through images to a new concept of the sublime, is illustrated in a striking passage from Blackwall: This Figure [oxymoron], when noble and perfect, shews a bold and enterprizing Genius, that encounters Dangers without Fear, and walks steadily and securely upon a Precipice . . . Every judicious Reader admires the daring Flights of a sublime and noble Genius; and easily forgives some few smaller Faults for the sake of his many vigorous Beauties: But despises a little groveling Writer, who creeps on in a heavy Road, and dares not attempt to rise; but being content to shun a Grammatical Fault, never reaches at an Excellency.99

There may be a touch of the British martial spirit here, but there is certainly more than a touch of Milton, since the passage is clearly Ibid., 48. Charles Gildon, The Complete Art of Poetry, 2 vols. (London, 1718), i, A6v. 99 Blackwall, Introduction, 227–8. He is commenting on ‘Seeming Contradiction’ and his illustration is from Julius Caesar, 2.2.32–3 (‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; | The valiant never taste of death but once’). 97 98


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modelled on the famous lines from Areopagitica, ‘I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue . . .’. What Blackwall has done, perhaps uniquely, is to use Milton, and Miltonic sublimity, to validate the rhetorical boldness and risk-taking of Shakespeare. The faults that Pope was keen to erase are dismissed as minor blemishes consequent upon a greater purpose. The flamboyant statement also rather undermines Baldwin’s assertion that eighteenth-century schoolmasters allowed grammar to dominate absolutely over rhetoric. What we see instead is rhetoric moving in new directions. Commonplace Shakespeare is renovated in the age of Pope as he is identified, in both editions and anthologies, as being rich in educational resources for English. In the next half-century major cultural shifts occur that transform these further in ways that are especially receptive to Shakespeare. To see the eighteenth century as an age of reason followed by an age of sensibility is entirely conventional, but it is a less obvious strategy to document the transition through the fortunes of the commonplace-book and the evolution of the anthology. It is true that the original role of the topics as places of argument within logic had evaporated from the literary anthology by Pope’s day. By the end of the eighteenth century, however, it would have diversified further in order to accommodate the emotions, and it is this development that gives even greater stimulus to the perception of Shakespeare as a writer of genius. It is a shift that reopens issues raised earlier in the context of the question ‘Did Shakespeare study creative writing?’, issues concerning nature and education, imitation and originality. In 1748 Robert Dodsley brought out The Preceptor: containing a general course of education, a book that was popular enough to go through twelve editions by the end of the century. The section on rhetoric and poetry was based on Blackwall and the preface was by Samuel Johnson. It is not one of Johnson’s better-known pieces. He begins by observing that although there are plenty of ‘compendiums’ of this kind, most of them are in Latin, which ‘too frequently produces Despair’. He then warns against servile imitation, hoping to ‘inculcate strongly to every Scholar the Danger of copying the Voice of another’, and as far as rhetoric is concerned, he says, ‘so much more is the Gift of Nature than the Effect of education, that nothing is attempted here but to teach the Mind some generall Heads of Observation, to which the beautiful passages of the best writers may commonly be reduced’.100 The educational role of 100

Robert Dodsley, The Preceptor (London, 1748), pp. xiii, xvi, xxii.

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the vernacular, the importance of developing an individual voice, and the supreme agency of nature is a powerful combination in favour of Shakespeare. These themes are prominent in other mid-century commentators on Shakespeare and the question of originality, such as Richard Hurd and Edward Young. Hurd is best known for his Letters on Chivalry and Romance (1762), but he also wrote about Shakespeare in his work on Horace. He is another critic who speaks of images and the sublime, arguing that Shakespeare’s genius lay in his ability to revitalize the commonplace: ‘The superiority of Homer and Shakespeare to other poets doth not lie in their discovery of new sentiments or images, but in the forceable manner, in which their sublime genius taught them to convey and impress old ones.’101 Hurd is particularly good on Shakespeare’s creative vocabulary, explaining in detail how his ‘secret’ of ‘disposing of old words in such a manner as that they shall have the grace of new ones’ works through grammatical transference and conversion.102 The result, Hurd argues, is that Shakespeare’s uniqueness of expression erases almost every trace of imitation: ‘you will best understand of what importance this affair of expression is to the discovery of imitations by considering how seldom we are able to fix an imitation on Shakespeare . . . his expression is so totally his own that he almost always sets us at defiance’.103 And it is an essentially native genius: from the classics ‘he takes nothing but the sentiment; the expression comes of itself, and is purely English’.104 Hurd’s views on Shakespeare are very much in tune with those of Edward Young, author of the much better known Conjectures on Original Composition (1759), as well as the fashionably melancholic Night Thoughts. According to Young, ‘Shakespeare mingled no water with his wine, lower’d his genius by no vapid imitation’. He is a ‘giant’ whose faults can be dismissed as a mere irrelevance. His only learning was from the pure source of ‘the book of nature, and that of Man . . . These are the fountain-head, whence the Castalian streams of original composition flow’.105 This new emphasis on Shakespeare’s originality—his ‘divine raptures’, as Hurd puts it106—and especially the claim that he only imitated nature, points

Vickers (ed.), Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, iii. 430–1. 103 Ibid. 307. 104 Ibid. Ibid. iv. 297. 105 Edward Young, Conjectures on Original Composition, ed. Edith J. Morley (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1918), 34–6. 106 Vickers (ed.), Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, iv. 407. 101 102


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directly to his elevation to godlike status by the Romantics at the end of the century. It also affects the way that Shakespeare is presented in anthologies. Probably the most celebrated of all eighteenth-century collections is The Beauties of Shakespear, compiled by the Reverend William Dodd, who was executed in 1777 for forging a bond for £4,200, despite representations from Samuel Johnson and others. His death was a scene of pathos and popular distress, of a kind that would certainly have qualified for entry in his own anthology, perhaps under the heading of ‘Virtue Tarnished’. Dodd’s Beauties first appeared in 1752; it was reissued in expanded editions throughout the eighteenth century and was still being reprinted, remarkably, in the first half of the twentieth century.107 Dodd’s critical touchstone is Longinus whose treatise On the Sublime was enormously influential in the eighteenth century as a result of Boileau’s French translation of 1674. Unless we read Shakespeare in the spirit of Longinus, Dodd warns, we cannot ‘presume to talk of taste and elegance’, reminding his readers that for Longinus ‘the most infallible test of the true Sublime, is the impression a performance makes upon our minds, when read or recited’.108 The ‘beauties’ Dodd assembles are not, however, just a series of isolated lyric fragments. Instead, each play is systematically reduced to a series of highlights selected for their emotional, moral, or imaginative power. These vary from brief passages of description to entire scenes, each of which is given a title. So in Othello we move from ‘The Tortures of Jealousy’ to ‘His pathetic Upbraiding of his Wife’ to ‘Desdemona’s Faithfulness’ and Macbeth ends with the downbeat sequence of ‘Despis’d Old-Age’, ‘Diseases of the Mind, incurable’, and ‘Reflections on Life’. The passages are extensively annotated with reference to earlier English and classical literature. What Dodd gives the reader, then, is something in between an anthology and an abridged edition, a book that still has vestiges of the commonplace tradition, but where the extracts are as likely to be tableaux vivants, chosen for their affective qualities, as they are to be extended epithets or aphorisms. This is the form in which Goethe first read Shakespeare. Young’s Conjectures had been translated into German in 1760 and had made a great impression on the Sturm und Drang movement, stimulating a particular enthusiasm for the English bard. ‘Nature! Nature! . . . no people 107 A Shakespeare Anthology. The beauties of Shakespeare . . . selected by William Dodd (London and Glasgow: Collins, 1936). 108 William Dodd, The Beauties of Shakespeare [1752], 2 vols. (New York: A. M. Kelley, 1971), vol. i, pp. vii, xvi.

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so close to Nature as Shakespeare’s!’ is how Goethe recorded his overwhelming reaction to Dodd’s Beauties.109 More interestingly, Herder’s panegyric to Shakespeare of 1773 derived from a belief that, like Homer, the First Folio was ‘the result of many scattered fragments culled from all kinds of sources’.110 It is a belief that romanticizes the commonplace method, combining Shakespeare’s role as the poet of nature with that of Renaissance articulator, or intertextualist, in the figure of the primitive bard. When Dodd stresses the importance of recitation in the communication of the sublime he points to the element which completes the story of the fate of the commonplace-book in the eighteenth century. At the same time it takes us back to the starting point of this book in language as living speech and in articulation and expression. From the 1750s onwards there was widespread interest in elocution as a means of selfimprovement, reflecting an English obsession with speech and class that was to culminate in Shaw’s Pygmalion and its musical spin-off, My Fair Lady. Oddly enough, the elocution movement was led by another Irishman, Thomas Sheridan, father of the playwright, whose Lectures on Elocution were first delivered in 1759 and published three years later. Sheridan disseminated his programme for clear articulation and force of expression far and wide, from Scotland to America, where university libraries began to acquire elocutionary works for the instruction of their students.111 The books that resourced the elocution movement were anthologies such as James Burgh’s The Art of Speaking (1761), the anonymous A Help to Elocution and Eloquence (1770) and, most famously, William Enfield’s The Speaker (1774). Commonplace-books eventually ended up as ‘Readers’, the familiar title today though unknown in the eighteenth century,112 but before the 109 See Simon Williams, Shakespeare on the German Stage, i. 1586–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 14–19. 110 A. Gillies, ‘Herder’s Essay on Shakespeare: “Das Herz der Untersuchung”’, Modern Language Review, 32 (1937), 269. Herder’s views were influenced by Theobald and by the Ossian phenomenon (see ‘Extract from a Correspondence on Ossian and the Songs of Ancient Peoples’ and ‘Shakespeare’, in H. B. Nisbet (ed.), German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 153–76. 111 See Warren Guthrie, ‘The Elocution Movement—England’, in The Province of Rhetoric, Joseph Schwartz and John A. Rycenga (eds.), (New York: Ronald, 1965), 264–7. 112 The first books with this title listed in the English Short-Title Catalogue are The Reader; or miscellaneous pieces, selected from the best English writers (Glasgow, 1797) and The reader, or reciter: by the assistance of which any person may teach himself to read or recite English prose (London, 1799). The second of these ‘Readers’, at least, is clearly also a ‘Speaker’.


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‘Reader’ came the ‘Speaker’. The Help to Elocution and Eloquence offers a good illustration of the genre. It contains three essays, ‘On Reading and Declamation’, ‘On the Marks and Characters of the different Passions and Affections of the Mind’, and ‘Composition’, and states that it is for use in schools. The arrangement continues to suggest that reading is for writing, that the end of reading is composition, but the book as a whole is now largely occupied with delivery (originally pronuntiatio and actio) and Shakespeare plays a central role. Julius Caesar is used to illustrate the difference between pauses of doubt and pauses of confusion. The advice is specific and physiological: ‘Pauses of Confusion are shorter than those of Reflection, and are to be filled up with hesitative panting draughts of Breath, while every succeeding Word or Sentence varies in Tone of Expression from the former’.113 A certain restraint is also recommended: ‘all action should move between the Tip of the Shoulder and the seat of the Heart’, the author counsels.114 Yet when he moves into the central section on the emotions, caution seems to evaporate. Here is ‘jealousy’, in a passage clearly steeped in Othello, though the play is not mentioned at this point: Again he composes himself a little, to reflect on the Charms of the suspected Person; she appears to his Imagination like the sweetness of the rising Dawn; then his Monster-breeding Fancy represents her as false as she is fair; then he roars out as one on the rack . . . then he springs up, and with the Look and Action of a Fury bursting hot from the Abyss, he snatches up the Instrument of Death, and, after ripping up the Bosom of the loved, suspected, hated, lamented Fair One, he stabs himself to the Heart.115

This, in a manner of speaking, is sublimity in action, and here too we can view the fate of the commonplace in the eighteenth century. Completing its journey from the first part of rhetoric (inventio) to the last part (actio) the commonplace moves from the seats of argument (sedes argumenti) to the seat of the passions, the heart.116 On the face of it the eighteenth-century elocution movement would seem to be a trivial subject, of no intellectual interest and of little relevance either to Shakespeare or the origins of English. Yet it comes with a powerful cultural history behind it that feeds directly into the present Anon., A Help to Elocution and Eloquence (London, 1770), 12. 115 Ibid. 35. Ibid. 18. 116 There are other aspects to the history of anthologization in the period, especially in relation to the novel; see the excellent work by Leah Price, The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: from Richardson to George Eliot (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000). 113 114

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subject. We can trace it back to Cicero on gesture as the voice of the body and to Quintilian on the necessity of speakers actually experiencing the emotions they attempt to communicate. It is present in Mulcaster’s views on civil speech and in Puttenham’s observation that ‘There is no greater difference betwixt a civill and brutish utteraunce than cleare distinction of voices’. The practice of declamation, in both ancient Rome and early modern England, is in many respects an elocution exercise, presenting debate as a performance art. Hamlet’s advice to the players or Thomas Heywood’s instructions to the scholar of rhetoric in the Apology for Actors ‘to fit his phrases to his action, and his action to his phrase, and his pronuntiation to them both’,117 which seems to echo Hamlet, also comes into this category. These different themes coalesce in eighteenth-century ideas about the cultural importance of speech.118 What is crucial now is not just decorum, as Hamlet and Heywood emphasized, but the effective expression of emotion. Hamlet was also concerned with this, of course, but the eighteenthcentury elocution books remind us that this is the age of the passions as well as the age of taste and correctness. The Help to Elocution and Eloquence certainly bears witness to that, while Burgh’s Art of Speaking provides a comprehensive table of the passions, where they have the status of topics or commonplaces. How this comes about may be summarized in an observation from The English Theophrastus (1702): ‘Passions are Nature’s never-failing Rhetorick, and the only Orators that can ever master our Affections’.119 This makes the vital connection between the elocution movement and the characterization of Shakespeare as the poet of nature, and it does so within the context of rhetoric. It is reinforced by William Enfield in the first essay in The Speaker, a book that became the most widely used of all school anthologies up to the mid-nineteenth century,120 in which Shakespeare Apology for Actors, 29. On Cicero and Quintilian see pp. 29 and 39 above; on Mulcaster and Puttenham pp. 129–30 and 130; on declamation, Ch. 3, passim; on Hamlet and Heywood, p 39. 119 Cited from Joseph R. Roach, The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (Newark, Dd.: University of Delaware Press, 1985), 23. This is one of a number of reflections on the passions in general which include the statement that ‘Passions often give birth to others of a Nature quite contrary to their own’, a point that is illustrated throughout Shakespeare (see [Abel Boyer],The English Theophrastus (London, 1702), 301). 120 See Michael, Teaching of English, 186, 446. There were about sixty editions to 1860. The first ever ‘edition’ produced specifically for the British school market was probably J. R. Pitman’s The School Shakespeare (1822) (see Murphy, Shakespeare in Print, 182). 117 118


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is the most heavily represented author. ‘There is a language of emotion and passions, as well as of ideas . . . [but] Expression hath indeed been so little studied in public speaking, that we seem almost to have forgotten the language of nature’, Enfield writes, adding in a later edition the observation that ‘The language of passion is uniformly taught by nature, and is every where intelligible . . . It is an essential part of elocution, to imitate this language of nature’.121 In The Speaker Renaissance concepts of articulation and expression are transformed into a new language whose supreme exponent is Shakespeare. The print revolution of the sixteenth century vastly increased the resources for literary study and composition within education. Shakespeare tapped into these, exploiting the databases of the rhetorical tradition and imaginatively transforming the commonplace in new works of art. As the commonplace-book evolved into the printed anthology, and the vernacular started to challenge the authority of the classics, the increasing presence of Shakespeare in these kinds of compilation helped to alter the character of the commonplace. Although it still retained its original meaning within logic, in its other, literary life it had moved, by the mid-eighteenth century, from the place where an appropriate argument could be found to the ‘shining passage’ or beauty or emotional highlight. This was brought about by the important role of the passions within rhetoric, and then by the elocution movement, in which the mere ‘saying’ was transformed into articulate and expressive speech. These developments create the resources for English. Old thesauruses become new treasuries. Reading and speaking the vernacular, with Shakespeare as a model, constituted cultural capital for the middle classes. At the same time the importance of the passions in learning to speak with both refinement and expression gives a secular inflection to the scriptural maxim that ‘where your treasure is there will your heart be also’.122 In another, later era all these reflections might help to remind us that literature and the subject of English itself remain a vital part of human resources. Not in the managerialist sense of that term, which defines people in terms of their exploitability, but in the sense which defines literature as a resource for human beings.

121 William Enfield, The Speaker: or Miscellaneous Pieces, Selected from the Best English Writers, 3rd edn. (London, 1777), p. xxiv; (1790), p. xxxi. 122 Matt., 6:21.


The Origins of English 6.1 . FROM RHETORIC TO CRITICISM

In 1759 the first volumes appeared of a novel that made elaborate mockery of the relentless pursuit of origins. The character who provides the book with its title, Tristram Shandy, is not born until volume four, and it opens instead with an account of Tristram’s conception. The vital moment—and its interruption—is recorded by Sterne thus: Pray, my dear, quoth my mother, have you not forgot to wind up the clock?— —Good G——! cried my father, making an exclamation, but taking care to moderate his voice at the same time, —— Did ever woman, since the creation of the world, interrupt a man with such a silly question? 1

Sterne’s opening scene ironizes the problem of the appropriate starting point, mischievously throwing in a reference to the beginning of time itself, while offering a starting point of its own that is very much ‘in the middle of things’. As Sterne was aware, Horace had approved Homer’s beginning the Iliad ‘in medias res’ in his Art of Poetry, ridiculing at the same time the kind of author who would want to go back to Leda’s egg, the point of Helen’s conception, in an obsessive determination to write a complete history.2 ‘For which cause’, Tristram remarks facetiously, ‘right glad I am, that I have begun the history of myself in the way I have done; and that I am able to go on tracing every thing in it, as Horace says, ab Ovo’.3 Modern English Studies has learned many lessons from Tristram Shandy, including its self-conscious allusions to the book as material object, so it would be perverse to ignore its implicit warnings against the search for origins. But the aim of the present book is not to argue for an unbroken continuity between early modern rhetoric and modern or post-modern English, or to offer the first volume in a complete 1 Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, ed. Ian Campbell Ross (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), 5. 2 Horace, Art of Poetry, l. 147. 3 Sterne, Tristram Shandy, 8.


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history of the subject. What I chiefly want to do is to highlight a range of literary and educational activities from the early sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries in order to point out their similarities (as well as their dissimilarities) with many of our own concerns. The notion that there was once a core subject which is now hopelessly splintered and diversified depends upon an artificially late date for the origins of English and a narrow formulation of what the subject comprises. Both the dating and the formulation are the product, in the UK at least, of an Oxbridge perspective on the world. A rather more objective account would recognize that those universities were not the first but almost the last to make any serious provision for the study of literature in the vernacular in their institutions, as at least one Cambridge scholar (Raymond Williams) acknowledged.4 So it is important in order to understand the diversity of the present subject that we appreciate some of its previous incarnations in the earlier period; not least because that is the period when the writer who still remains central to English Studies was produced and then established as pre-eminent in the vernacular canon. What I also want to do is to argue that such a perspective would support a refocusing of the subject on the issue that I began with—expression—without sacrificing the kind of diversity that most people engaged in English find enriching rather than disabling. It would be disingenuous, however, to deny that this book presents some sort of history, though one of a rather unlinear kind. I have tried to show that the resources for English were available in textbook form long before the study of the vernacular occupied an official place on the school and university curriculum, and also how Shakespeare benefited from their classical predecessors before becoming material for the English anthology himself. What I want to do here is to trace a parallel development that enabled the modern subject to establish itself as fit for academic study. This will point us towards higher education rather than the schools and to Scotland rather than England. Any attempt to trace the origins of an academic discipline has to be informed by an awareness of how subjects transform themselves over long periods of time. In the case of ‘English’, while it is clear that the subject did not begin, suddenly, with the creation of chairs in latenineteenth-century Oxbridge, its earlier emergence in the mideighteenth century Scottish universities, now well documented,5 must Raymond Williams, Writing in Society (London: Verso, 1983), 178. See Robert Crawford (ed.), The Scottish Invention of English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). 4 5

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also be placed in the historical perspective of evolving disciplines. Our perception of this is at present extremely unclear, since eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholars tend to regard the rhetorically based learning of Renaissance academies as remote from their own concerns, while studies of the development of rhetoric by Renaissance specialists are liable to peter out early in the seventeenth century. By describing this in terms of a movement from rhetoric to criticism my intention is both to supply that gap and to echo Grafton and Jardine’s 1986 study, From Humanism to the Humanities, which demonstrates how an educational programme in the humanities, designed to train a social elite, emerged from the moral and intellectual ideals of humanism in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.6 This was to be transformed by the French bellelettrism of the late seventeenth century, which had a direct influence on the Scottish rhetoricians, and which led in turn to an anxiety about the very term ‘rhetoric’, now regarded as archaic and mechanical. Such anxiety about nomenclature is not trivial or superficial. It arises from an awareness that a subject has been transformed to a point where it needs to be redefined. The condition of English Studies in the early twenty-first century bears obvious witness to this, and from that perspective we may also notice the irony that, while the term ‘rhetoric’ has become an increasing part of our academic discourse, the term ‘belleletrism’ is used exclusively now in a pejorative sense to denote an anti-intellectual form of literary appreciation. A further irony which arises from an examination of the way in which the subject has evolved is the recognition that, pace complaints from traditionalists that English was suddenly infected by new ideas from Paris in the late 1960s, it was effectively created by new ideas from Paris. The first part of this chapter, then, argues that academic English emerges from the transition from rhetoric to criticism, and that it does so, paradoxically, in the context of the French connection with Scotland. At this point a brief retrospective may be helpful. As we saw earlier, the study of literature had always been associated with rhetoric as part of a training in eloquence, but until the eighteenth century a corequisite was the mastery of a foreign language. For the Roman schoolboy the language was Greek, and for the Renaissance schoolboy, firstly at any rate, Latin. What is more, the acquisition of that linguistic proficiency became, in the Renaissance, a form of puberty rite in which 6 Grafton and Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities. The authors stress the gap between the ideals and the practice, however.


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young boys were inducted into an all-male, Latin-speaking world, with corporal punishment as part of the initiation process.7 The issue of gender, then, is inseparable from the story of the evolution of rhetoric as an academic subject, and its eventual replacement by criticism. The issue is also relevant when we consider the objectives involved in mastering the art of rhetoric. The Renaissance had inherited from Cicero and Quintilian an ideal of eloquence as civic discourse, with the orator as the perfect embodiment of the vir civilis, and the public functions of eloquence ensured that it was by definition a virile accomplishment. In the public sphere female eloquence would almost invariably have been translated into its negative counterparts, shrewishness or loquacity, since to speak out (e-loquor) in that context would not have been appropriate. And to the issue of gender we must also add that of social rank, since the almost superhuman attributes expected of the true orator, as well as the political power which they conferred, implied a certain degree of nobility in the eloquent speaker. The implication is present in Quintilian’s requirement that the orator be a good man, capable of moving his audience to virtue. The ideals of eloquence, and also the status of rhetoric, the vehicle through which these ideals could be achieved, reached their highest point of prestige in the sixteenth century. In an academic context they were reinforced by educational theorists, among them Erasmus, who were exploiting the new technology of printing to produce textbooks designed to help the student in his acquisition of the arts of speaking and writing. At the same time, however, that print was being used as a facilitator for rhetoric it was also both transforming it and diminishing it. Print transferred attention from oral to written discourse, dealing a body blow to the art of memory, the fourth part of classical rhetoric, in the process. With the production of multiple copies (a travesty of the Renaissance concept of copia in eloquence) print helped to erode the elitist and specifically masculine character of rhetoric, and the same effect was achieved by the increase in the number of books written in or translated into the vernacular. So when we follow the development of rhetoric into criticism, and hence the emergence of English as a subject, we are bound to address a number of intimately related topics: the replace-

7 As Walter J. Ong suggested in his well-known essay, ‘Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite’, in Rhetoric, Romance and Technology (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1971), 113–41. The issue is also discussed in Bushnell, A Culture of Teaching, 23–37.

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ment of the learned language by the vernacular, issues of gender and class, and the shift in emphasis from speaking to writing and, eventually, reading. We can now relocate to Paris where, in the mid-sixteenth century, the ability of rhetoric to realize an ideal of eloquence that would cover the whole range of human knowledge was polemically challenged by the philosopher and pedagogue Pierre de La Ramée, better known as Ramus. (Translating yourself into Latin gave you added authority, and in this instance had the effect of conspicuous masculinization.) Having graduated MA in 1536 with a thesis notoriously attacking Aristotle, Ramus was appointed, in 1551, Regius Professor of Philosophy and Eloquence at the Collège de France in Paris, a title which was very much his own invention and which had no successors. In spite of his Latinized name he was quite in favour of the vernacular, and his most influential work, the Dialectique, was first published in French in 1555 and then adapted into Latin.8 The most far-reaching aspect of this book was the radical surgery which Ramus performed on classical rhetoric, removing its first two parts, inventio and dispositio, and reassigning them to dialectic, while leaving rhetoric with only style or expression (elocutio) and delivery (pronuntiatio); memory was to become redundant. This is the way in which Ramus’ contribution to the evolution of rhetoric is usually described, but it would be misleading to think of his aims as anti-humanist or anti-rhetorical. He was chiefly concerned to establish more specifically what rhetoric was supposed to cover in its contribution to those Renaissance ideals of eloquence inherited from Cicero and Quintilian. The principle here, as throughout his work, was one of simplification and practicality, and it was also as an aid to understanding that the Dialectique and his Paris lectures were illustrated by examples from poetry. In the case of the Dialectique this meant modern poetry in the vernacular by Ronsard, Du Bellay, Marot, and others, and at the end of that work he spells out precisely what rhetoric was concerned with: ‘all the tropes and figures of style, all the graces of delivery, which is the whole of rhetoric, distinct and separate from dialectic’.9 Like most other educational reforms Ramus’ were attacked at the time as trivializing and shallow, 8 See Ong, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue, 25–7; Ramus and Talon Inventory (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958), 178–80. 9 Pierre de la Ramée, Dialectique, ed. Michel Dassonville (Geneva: Libraire Droz, 1964), 152. (Translations from the French are my own.)


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but they were nonetheless to have profound importance for the subsequent development of rhetoric.10 As Brian Vickers has observed: the ‘reforms of Ramus and Talon may indeed have separated rhetoric from dialectic, but in their systematic development of elocutio, and their espousal of the vernaculars, the Ramists had a beneficial influence in applying rhetoric to literature’.11 The first evidence of this in the English-speaking world comes from Scotland. Ramus was one of the best-selling authors of the Renaissance, as the thousand or so editions of his works listed in Ong’s Ramus and Talon Inventory bear witness, and he achieved the widest influence on the educational curricula of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are more translations of the Dialectica (i.e. the Latin version of the Dialectique) into English than into any other language, and the first of these is by the Scot Roland MacIlmaine, a scholar from St Andrews University, who published The Logike of the Moste Excellent Philosopher P. Ramus, Martyr and a Latin edition of the same work in 1574. Although the introduction of Ramism to the English-speaking world is usually credited to Gabriel Harvey, who produced no translation of Ramus, Ramism in fact established itself in Scotland before Cambridge.12 James Stewart, Earl of Mar and Moray, and Regent of Scotland from 1567, was a St Andrews graduate who had studied under Ramus at Presle, while Andrew Melville, a Glasgow scholar, later Principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews, and MacIlmaine himself had both attended Ramus’ classes in Paris. One effect on MacIlmaine was to encourage him to produce a vigorous defence of the vernacular in his introduction to the Logike: Heare I will speake nothing of the envious, that thinkethe it not decent to wryte any liberall arte in the vulgar tongue, but woulde have all thinges kept close eyther in the Hebrewe, Greke, or Latyne tongues . . . Did Cicero who was a Latinist borne write his Philosophie and Rethoricke in the Greke tongue, or was he content with his mother tongue? . . . Shall we then thinke the Scottyshe or Englishe tongue, is not fitt to write any arte into? no in dede . . . But thou wilt saye, our tongue is barbarous, and theirs is eloquent? I aunswere thee as Anacharsis did to the Athenienses, who called his Scithian tongue barbarous, See Grafton and Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities, 167. Brian Vickers, In Defence of Rhetoric (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988), 206. 12 Karl Josef Höltgen, ‘Roland MacIlmaine and Early Ramist Influence in Britain’, in Hans Ulrich Seeber and Walter Göbel (ed.), Proceedings of the Conference of the German Association of University Teachers of English, vol. xiv (Tübingen; 1993), 283–4; W. S. Howell, Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500–1700 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1961), 179–89. 10 11

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yea sayethe he, Anarcharsis is barbarous amongest the Athenienses, and so are the Athenienses amongest the Scythyans, by the which aunswere he signifieth that every mans tongue is eloquent ynoughe for hym self, and that others in respecte of it [is] had as barbarous . . . .13

MacIlmaine’s introduction is an exercise in cultural relativism in the style of Mulcaster or Daniel, though not quite so confidently assertive. The treatise that follows is illustrated with passages of poetry, English translations from Virgil, Ovid, and Catullus (though not from modern French poetry), and MacIlmaine’s reference to the Scottish tongue is supported by his admission of Scotticisms which would have shocked his eighteenth-century successors. MacIlmaine’s Ramus, then, affirms both the status of the vernacular and the pedagogical value of poetry, while Ramus’ work as a whole has been described by Grafton and Jardine as transformational in the history of Western education: ‘we turn to Ramus in pursuit of that crucial moment of transition when (we maintain) “humanism” became the “humanities” . . . he heralds the age of standardised classroom teaching and the best-selling textbook’.14 And I would add to this the proposition that Ramus is also responsible for the transition from rhetoric to criticism. That proposition needs to be referred not only to the concentration on elocutio in Ramist rhetoric, but also to another aspect of his work which is of direct relevance to the question of evolving academic disciplines. This is Ramus’ aim of eliminating repetition through the overlapping of subject categories, which is what led to his separation of inventio and dispositio in the first place, and his insistence that subjects be taught with regard to their intrinsic elements. MacIlmaine renders this as follows: ‘The third documente which thou shalt note herein observed, is, that thou intreate of thy rules which be generall generallye and those which be speciall speciallie, and at one tyme, without any vaine repetitions’.15 It is one of the many paradoxes involved in the origins of English that the subject should have been created by a process of narrowing down and hiving off, but that, in the early twenty-first century in the entire academic curriculum it is the subject with the least sense of sharp boundaries or intrinsic elements. In the late seventeenth century, however, it was emerging from another Parisian innovation, which took the name ‘belles lettres’, and which occupies the interim 13 Peter Ramus, The Logike, trans. Roland MacIlmaine, ed. Catherine M. Dunn (Northridge, Calif.: San Fernando Valley State College, 1969), 9. 14 Grafton and Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities, 162. 15 Ramus, The Logike, 5.


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between rhetoric and criticism. The term was probably invented by the Jesuit author René Rapin, who refers to belles-lettres in the full titles of two books, Les Comparaisons des grands hommes de l’antiquité . . . and Les Réflexions sur l’eloquence . . ., both published in 1684.16 But if Rapin was responsible for the term ‘belles-lettres’, the moment of transition for rhetoric was effectively announced by Bernard Lamy in his treatise L’Art de Parler, which was published anonymously in Paris in 1675.17 It was translated into English the following year and reissued in 1696 and 1708. The French version also went into a third edition (1688) in which the author’s name was revealed and the title changed to La Rhetorique, ou L’Art de Parler, and for the fifth edition of 1712 the work itself was ‘revised and augmented’. Lamy’s work is described by Barbara Warnick, author of the first monograph to deal with the influence of French belleletrism on eighteenth-century Scottish rhetoric, as a ‘transitional rhetoric’, and she attributes what she calls ‘the eclipse of invention’ to Lamy. Rather oddly, there is only one mention of Ramus, at the end of the book.18 Lamy was indeed influential, but the transitional aspect of his work might best be illustrated somewhat differently. In the course of revision his conception of rhetoric changed, and in the fifth edition it appears as follows: ‘The art of speaking is very useful and has a very extensive application. It comprises everything that in French is called Belles Lettres; in Latin and Greek philology, the Greek word means love of words. To know Belles Lettres is to know how to speak, to write, or to judge those who write’ (my emphasis).19 That sequence of speaking, writing, and critical reading is a defining moment in the transition from rhetoric to criticism. While Lamy’s work had some success in what we may now call ‘Britain’—the third London edition appeared in the year following the Union—it was Charles Rollin who was responsible for the naturalization of the term belles lettres in English with the translation of his 16 See Wilbur Samuel Howell, Eighteenth-Century British Logic and Rhetoric (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971), 520–1. There is good discussion by Richard Terry on the way in which belles-lettres embraces both pedagogy and criticism, and criticism and creativity (see Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past 1660–1781), 22–7. 17 With Claude Lancelot (grammar) and Antoine Arnauld (logic), Lamy’s rhetoric completed the educational reforms to the three elements of the trivium associated with the Port-Royal movement. By coincidence, Arnauld’s logic was translated into English by T. S. Baynes, author of ‘What Shakespeare Learnt at School’. 18 See Barbara Warnick, The Sixth Canon: Belletristic Rhetorical Theory and its French Antecedents (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1993), 129. 19 Bernard Lamy, La Rhétorique, ou l’art de parler, 5th edn. (Amsterdam, 1712), 4.

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four-volume work De La Manière d’enseigner et d’étudier les belles lettres in 1734. Rollin was also to have a powerful influence in the academy. Like Ramus he was Professor of Eloquence in the Collège de France in Paris, but with the job description ‘Eloquence and BellesLettres’ rather than Ramus’ ‘Philosophy and Eloquence’, a distinction which offers a paradigm of the subject development I have been tracing. He too drew flak from traditionalists for promoting the study of rhetoric in the vernacular and using illustrations from modern poets.20 (In the English editions there are examples from Dryden and Pope, as well as ‘Englished’ versions of Malherbe, Racine, and Corneille.) And Rollin underlines the transition from rhetoric to what he calls ‘the reading and exploration of authors’, and earlier ‘the perusal of good authors’, without which, he says, rhetoric is ‘lifeless and barren’.21 This is all specifically designed for an academic audience. The last part of Rollin’s work consists of ‘an account of the government of the classes and college: how to manage the conduct of youth’, while the title declares that the work is ‘Illustrated with Passages from the most famous Poets and Orators, antient and modern, with Critical Remarks on them, designed more Particularly for Students in the Universities’. And the whole project may be summed up by the statement: ‘I shall principally endeavour to form the taste of young persons . . . The taste, as it now falls under our consideration, that is, with reference to the reading of authors and composition’.22 Here the crucial concept of ‘taste’ sets the agenda for the early academic study of English literature. Through a combination of literary criticism and what we might now call creative writing, the student acquires certain standards of ‘politeness’ (another crucial concept) which will fit him for easy intercourse in society.23 Although St Andrews had made plans for a Chair of Eloquence as early as 1720, it seems likely that Edinburgh was the first university to introduce the new French belleletrism into the academic curriculum.24 20 See Barbara Warnick, ‘A Minor Skirmish: Balthazar Gibert Versus Charles Rollin on Rhetorical Education’, in Winifred Bryan Horner and Michael Leff (eds.), Rhetoric and Pedagogy: Its History, Philosophy and Practice: Essays in Honor of James J. Murphy, (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1995), 173–81. 21 Charles Rollin, The Method of Teaching and Studying the Belles-Lettres, 4 vols. (London, 1734), iii. 48; iii. 2. 22 Rollin, Method, i. 47–9. 23 See Lawrence E. Klein, Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness: Moral Discourse and Cultural Politics in Early Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). 24 On the St Andrews chair see Robert Crawford, ‘Introduction’, in Scottish Invention, 4–7.


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This was the doing of John Stevenson, appointed Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in 1730, whose own copies of Lamy (the fifth edition) and Rollin now repose in Edinburgh University Library.25 Stevenson’s lectures do not survive, but some of his students’ essays do, and they include such topics as ‘Taste’ and ‘Rules of Conversation’.26 Meanwhile, outside the University there were developments that would lead directly to the formation of the Regius Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, effectively the first Chair of English. In 1748 Adam Smith, who had returned to Scotland after ten years in a comatose Oxford, was appointed to give a series of public lectures in Edinburgh on rhetoric and belles-lettres, lectures which Smith modelled on Rollin. The prime mover behind this appointment was Henry Home, Lord Kames, lawyer and man of letters, and a leading member of the Edinburgh Philosophical Society. Smith’s lectures were highly successful, and when he left for Glasgow in 1751 Kames found a successor in Robert Watson. In 1756 Watson in turn left to take up the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at St Andrews, and Kames again kept the Edinburgh lectures running, with the appointment of Hugh Blair. The continued popularity of the lectures prompted the Town Council to recommend that a Chair of Rhetoric be established in the University, with Blair as the incumbent, and this was finally settled in 1762 through the offices of the Earl of Bute, a close adviser to George III. Blair himself was responsible for the title of the chair, suggesting that ‘to give it a more modern air, the title of Belles Lettres might be added’.27 The one person to be put out by these developments was Stevenson, whose position was summed up in an article in The Scots Magazine of 1802: His critical lectures, it must be owned, contributed a large share towards the production of the more polished and refined, but not more useful, academical discourses of the late Dr Blair: and it was not without reason, that the institution of a separate chair for a Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres was complained of, by the respectable veteran, as an encroachment upon his province.28

25 See Peter France, A Thing Called Rhetoric: Eloquence, Literature and Taste in Edinburgh 1583–1995 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Library, 1995), 15 (catalogue of an exhibition prepared for the International Society for the History of Rhetoric conference, 1995). 26 Ibid. (Edinburgh University Library DC 4.54). 27 See Paul G. Bator, ‘The Formation of the Regius Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at the University of Edinburgh’, Quarterly Journal of Speech, 75/1 (1989), 40–64. 28 ‘Account of the Late Duke Gordon, M.A.’, in The Scots Magazine, 64 (1802), 22.

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Since Stevenson had taught not only Blair, but also John Witherspoon, who was to lecture on rhetoric at the College of New Jersey, later Princeton, and write the first survey of the subject to be published in America, his feelings are understandable.29 The foundation of the Edinburgh chair and the publication of Blair’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in 1783 mark the beginning of English Studies not just in Britain but internationally. Blair’s Lectures became the most widely used textbook in the field in America during the first half of the nineteenth century, going through at least thirtythree editions before 1873.30 But Blair was also indebted to Adam Smith, whose public lectures of 1748–9 he had attended as a student, and Smith continued those lectures at Glasgow in the years before the creation of the Edinburgh chair. So Smith and Blair may jointly be credited with the origins of English. A third figure with a minor role is Robert Watson, who intervened between them in the lecture series organized by Kames. Watson is of interest here because he is the person who first explicitly replaces rhetoric with ‘criticism’ in the university curriculum. His lectures at St Andrews survive in two manuscript notebooks in the University Library, dated 1758 and 1762, and there is a further manuscript in Edinburgh University Library catalogued under 1764.31 He starts his first lecture with the Ramist pronouncement (compare MacIlmaine above) that The first thing to be done in every Science, is to fix the notion of the Science itself . . . many Rules of this Art [i.e. rhetoric] are of a General nature, and therefore ought to be delivered as general . . . it is proposed in the first place to mention those rules which are common to all the different kinds of discourse, and then mention those which are peculiar to each particular kind.

Watson then states his intention of abandoning theory for practice: By the Rules of Rhetorick are meant Nothing else, but Observations concerning the Particulars which render Discourse excellent & usefull. It is not proposed to deliver them in the Form of Rules, but in the form of general Criticisms illustrated by Examples from Authors. To what follows then you

29 ‘Lectures on Moral Philosophy’ and ‘Lectures on Eloquence’, in The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon, 4 vols. (Philadelphia, Pa: 1800–1). 30 See Michael, The Teaching of English, 404. There was a similar number of British editions. 31 See Paul G. Bator, ‘The Unpublished Rhetoric Lectures of Robert Watson, Professor of Logic, Rhetoric, and Metaphysics at the University of St. Andrews, 1756–1778’, Rhetorica, 12 (1994), 67–113.


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may give the Name of Rhetorick, or Criticism as you please; if they deserve the one they will deserve the other also.32

If we can trace the moment at which rhetoric in effect becomes criticism back to Lamy, this is probably the moment at which the two forms are first claimed to be interchangeable, and certainly so in an academic context. By replacing theory with practice, and substituting criticism for rhetoric, what Watson is actually offering is practical criticism. It is practical because it is concerned with particular verbal effects, it is combined with exercises in composition, and its stated objective is to improve the taste of the students. Those students would have heard Watson’s discussion of literary style with reference to vocabulary; to tropes and figures such as metaphor, allegory, personification, and periphrasis; and to literary forms such as tragedy, epic, and comedy. They would also have heard illustrations from English authors including Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, and Pope. A similar agenda, with the same object of social improvement, is followed by Smith and Blair. But none of these professors actually abandons the term ‘rhetoric’. It was certainly falling into disfavour, and earlier, at Glasgow, Adam Smith had dismissed most rhetorics as ‘generally a very silly set of Books and not at all instructive’.33 The person who does abandon ‘rhetoric’ for ‘criticism’ is the patron of Smith, Watson, and Blair, Lord Kames. Kames’s Elements of Criticism appeared in 1762, going through twelve British editions to 1839, including an abridged version ‘for use in schools’, and it may fairly be said to have established the nomenclature up to the present day.34 It is a book which has a crucial role to play in the origins of English, and, since Shakespeare is central to the work, I shall return to it in the second half of this chapter. 32 Robert Watson, ‘A Treatise on Rhetorick’ [1758], St Andrews University Muniments MS PN173.W1, fos.1–2. I have adopted the singular form ‘Criticism’ from the 1762 MS, which appears to be a correction of the plural recorded in 1758. 33 Adam Smith, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ed J. C. Bryce (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), 26. 34 See Ian Simpson Ross, Lord Kames and the Scotland of his Day (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 260–91. The shift in terminology coincides with the institutionalization of criticism as an activity (see Douglas Lane Patey, ‘The Institution of Criticism in the Eighteenth Century’, in H. B. Nisbet and Claude Rawson (eds.) The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, iv. The Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 3–31, and Jonathan Brody Kramnick, Making the English Canon: Print-Capitalism and the Cultural Past, 1700–1770 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)).

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The beginnings of English teaching in the mid-eighteenth century are closely linked to the elocution movement. Thomas Sheridan’s lecture programme on the subject at Edinburgh in 1761 coincided with Blair’s on rhetoric and belles-lettres, and when Sheridan’s lectures were published by subscription the following year, the subscribers including Lord Kames, their appearance coincided with Blair’s elevation to the new chair, also with Kames’s support. Sheridan’s lectures helped to supply resources for English. John Drummond’s A Collection of Poems for Reading and Repetition, for example, published the following year, ‘contains most of the pieces that were read by Mr SHERIDAN at his public lectures in Edinburgh’.35 But it was an earlier book of Sheridan’s, British Education (1756), that provided a manifesto for English and found its way into the university libraries. British Education is important for the subject in several ways. First, Sheridan argues that English offers a better education than Classics: ‘The learned languages are no longer the sole repositories of knowledge; on the contrary, the English is become an universal magazine not only of antient but of all modern wisdom . . . how is it possible to account for the absurd notions of so many parents, that Greek and Latin are still the high roads to fortune, because they were so two centuries ago . . . ? ’.36 He then argues that Britain has greater means than Greece or Rome of making its language universal, through modern commerce and the democratization of literature by print, but that in order to achieve this it has to be corrected and standardized. He also argues that ‘As the chief glory of a people arises from their authors, the propagation of that language is necessary to the displaying of that glory in it’s full lustre’,37 and it follows from this that the best authors must be studied in depth: ‘[on Milton] Let us therefore apply ourselves seriously, and with diligence, to a study capable of affording us such delight. Let us no longer think, that to learn to read is sufficient, but to read well.’38 Finally, if all this is done, ‘Nothing but the most shameful neglect in the people can prevent the English from handing down to posterity a third classical language, of far more importance than the other two.’39 Sheridan’s triumphalist vision for English echoes the earlier imaginings of Mulcaster and Daniel, who foresaw ‘the treasure of our tongue’ exported overseas and foreign students flocking to British 35 John Drummond, A Collection of Poems for Reading and Repetition Selected from the most celebrated British Poets (Edinburgh, 1762), pp. vii–viii. 36 37 Thomas Sheridan, British Education, 218, 221. Ibid. 268. 38 Ibid. 263. 39 Ibid. 367.


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shores, eager to acquire its eloquence. English language and literature would be the new Latin, only bigger and better. The story of English is inseparable from the story of empire. Economic interests are vital to Sheridan’s pedagogy. His mission for English depends on the claim that commerce gives ‘Great Britain . . . an infinite advantage over Rome [and] over all other countries of the world’,40 but within the British state itself a literary education in English offered some practical advantages. British Education complemented Blair’s lectures and provided a broader educational agenda for them, and while Sheridan’s programme for English is in one sense idealistic, in Scotland it was also useful. University English was firstly concerned with the inculcation of correct taste and standards of expression for social ends. English literature was the medium through which the newly Britished Scots might become socially assimilated with England and enjoy the commercial benefits of the expanding British Empire. In that respect, it had a practical appeal for the middle classes, who would surely have endorsed the following description of a good educator: ‘He proposed as a test of an education that it should prove “useful”—that it should repay those who undertook it with skills applicable outside the universities. He thereby won the approval of a mercantile class determined to get value for money from their “investment” in their sons’ education.’41 ‘He’ in this account, however, is not Sheridan, Blair, or any other anglophone, in fact, but Peter Ramus as described by Grafton and Jardine. We can also extrapolate from the Scottish universities’ response to the social conditions created by the new British state some more general observations about the subject as a whole, especially with regard to the issues of nomenclature and gender which I raised at the start. English, when it came to establish itself in the English universities, was popularly and dismissively typecast as a ‘women’s subject’. This was because it was thought to lack the masculine discipline and factual precision required to study the classics,42 and the labelling echoes a similarly gendered perception of the transition from rhetoric to belles-lettres to criticism in the eighteenth century. Women were not, Thomas Sheridan, British Education, 269–70. Grafton and Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities, 168. 42 When the subject was eventually introduced at Oxford, masculine backbone was supposed to be produced by a healthy diet of Germanic philology, so there is a satisfying irony in the fact that the first Anglo-Saxon grammar to be printed in English was composed by a woman (see Elizabeth Elstob, The Rudiments of Grammar for the English-Saxon Tongue (London, 1715) ). 40 41

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of course, admitted to universities in eighteenth-century Scotland, and the educational objective of acquiring good taste by reading polite literature can be referred in the first instance to the social and ethnic requirements of gentrification. But there is also an underlying principle of feminization at work here. Classical and Renaissance rhetoric was designed to supply a combative eloquence which could be effective in the public forum. It was part of active life, and manly. With the arrival of belles lettres from France—the form itself suggests a feminization of the subject—comes the concept of ‘society’, in which both men and women of a certain rank participate, together with the matching concepts of taste and politeness which are formed in part by the passive reception of the printed book. Persuasive eloquence in the arena of public life is replaced by the more feminine activities of reading and conversation. This is why Adam Smith told his (male) Glasgow students in the first of his lectures that ‘It is commonly said also that in France and England the conversation of the Ladies is the best standar〈d〉 of Language, as there is a certain delicacy and agreableness in their behaviour and adress’.43 That development has been discussed in depth by Adam Potkay, who describes a ‘querelle between conversation and eloquence in the eighteenth century which led to calls, by David Hume in particular, for a revival of the ‘ “Sublime and pathetic” eloquence of the great classical orators’ to counteract the ‘calm, elegant, and subtle’ tenor of modern feminized eloquence.44 We might add to this the point that the gradual transformation of rhetoric itself can also be construed in gendered terms. As we have seen, the removal of its first two parts to the masculine province of logic, symbolized by the closed fist, left it principally with the feminine ornaments of elocutio, while its final part, pronuntiatio, which in its classical form included actio, also experienced a metamorphosis. Stentorian tones and vigorous gestures were hardly well adapted to the drawing room, and pronuntiatio became the more refined art of elocution in the modern sense outlined by Sheridan (‘the just and graceful management of the voice, countenance, and gesture in speaking’45). The art of speaking well evolved into the art of being well-spoken. These are the cultural conditions in which English emerges as an academic subject, and as the French have traditionally been blamed for the importation to Smith, Lectures, ed. Bryce, 4. Adam Potkay, The Fate of Eloquence in the Age of Hume (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1994), 24–5. 45 Thomas Sheridan, A Course of Lectures on Elocution (London, 1762), 19. 43 44


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Britain of things effeminate, so they may now be blamed for the origins of English Studies. This account of the transition from rhetoric to criticism has so far omitted one issue which is of considerable significance for Shakespeare. This is the point that the development does not, in fact, constitute a linear progress from the spoken to the written word, with the old oral world eventually being submerged under a black and white tide of printed matter. The growing attention to reading, the advance of the vernacular, the feminization of rhetoric, and the beginnings of Englishliterature teaching in the Scottish universities all coincide with a renewed sense of the vitality of the spoken word. The moment that I have used to exemplify the transition from rhetoric to criticism does, after all, come in a book called L’Art de Parler, while the fact that ‘Speakers’ preceded ‘Readers’ in the market for literary anthologies speaks for itself, as it were. The immediate purpose of Sheridan’s elocution lectures may have been to polish accents in the less refined parts of the kingdom, but they were also part of a wider interest in the origins of language which led to a revival of the concept of speech as the primary medium of communication, particularly in the 1760s and 1770s. Works of this kind included Rousseau’s Essai sur l’origine des langues, published posthumously in 1781, which Derrida was to deconstruct in the late 1960s; Adam Smith’s Considerations concerning the First Formation of Language (1761); Lord Monboddo’s Of the Origin and Progress of Language (1776), and Hugh Blair’s lectures on ‘The Rise and Progress of Language’. These investigations were later dismissed as merely ‘Theoretical or Conjectural Histories’, as Smith’s first biographer, the more empirically minded Dugald Stewart, put it.46 But, as Nicholas Hudson has pointed out, ‘Eighteenth-century philosophers were not attempting to establish an authentic history of language; rather, their re-creations of the origin of speech were intended to shed light on the nature of language in its modern form.’47 This is a statement that might also usefully be transferred to the present book with regard to the origins of English. Blair’s lectures on the origins of language, numbers VI and VII in a series of thirty-four, actually come after his ‘observations on the 46 Dugald Stewart, ‘Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith’, in Adam Smith, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. W. P. D. Wightman, J. C. Bryce, and I. S. Ross (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980), 296. 47 Nicholas Hudson, ‘Theories of Language’ in, vol. 4, in Nisbet and Rawson (eds.), The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 4, 340.

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Pleasures of Taste, which were meant to be introductory to the principal subject of these Lectures’.48 Even though language ‘is the foundation of the whole power of eloquence’, the question of good taste, that socially nuanced watchword of eighteenth-century criticism, is given priority. But there is more than just awkwardness in this arrangement, because Blair’s argument in these lectures is ultimately in conflict with the ethos of refinement which is supposed to inform his entire lecture programme and, of course, the nascent subject of English itself. Like Adam Smith, whom he cites, Blair hypothesizes the beginnings of language among primitive peoples. Originating in cries of passion or desire, language in its earliest forms is bound ‘to partake more of a natural expression’49 than it does in later ages. He then goes on to argue that, contrary to the received opinion that figurative language is ‘among the chief refinements of Speech, not invented till after Language had advanced to its later periods’, it is in fact a central characteristic of primitive speech: As the manner in which men at first uttered their words, and maintained conversation, was strong and expressive, enforcing their imperfectly expressed ideas by cries and gestures; so the Language which they used, could be no other than full of figures and metaphors, not correct indeed, but forcible and picturesque.50

He then illustrates his point with an elaborate quotation from an Iroquois peace declaration (‘We are happy in having buried under ground the red axe . . .’). What Blair is in effect saying is that primitive forms of language are more poetic than later ones: ‘In the infancy of all societies, men are much under the dominion of imagination and passion’, he points out, while in a later lecture on the nature of poetry (XXXVIII) he states that ‘the primary aim of a Poet is to please, and to move; and, therefore, it is to the Imagination, and the Passions, that he speaks’.51 His lecture on figurative language (XIV) had already supplied the connection: ‘Figurative Language always imports some colouring of the imagination, or some emotion of passion, expressed in our Style: And, perhaps, Figures of Imagination, and figures of Passion, might be a more useful distribution of the subject.’52 The whole thrust Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, i. 122. Ibid. i. 133. This lecture appears to be much indebted to Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, An Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge, trans. Thomas Nugent (London, 1756), 169–235. 50 51 52 Ibid. i. 141. Ibid. i. 142; iii. 85. Ibid. i. 347–8. 48 49


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of Blair’s account of the origins of language is to demonstrate that poetic expressivity is a natural feature of primitive cultures and one that can only be diminished by the supposedly ameliorating modern principles of taste. For that reason, although Blair describes a progress towards clear and precise communication (‘from vivacity to accuracy’), his story is essentially one of loss, and in the second of the two lectures on the origins of language all this is placed in the context of the superiority of speech over writing. The characteristics of poetic language, which are assimilated to those of primitive language, are also the characteristics of speech. Consequently, we must not forget to observe, that spoken Language has a great superiority over written Language, in point of energy or force. The voice of the living Speaker, makes an impression on the mind, much stronger than can be made by the perusal of any Writing . . . Hence, though Writing may answer the purposes of mere instruction, yet all the great and high efforts of eloquence must be made, by means of spoken, not of written, Language.53

So it looks as though, at the moment of transition from rhetoric to criticism, and at the moment of conception for English Studies, there is an interruption, brought about by a profound conflict between ancient and modern. Not so much between the classical and the vernacular, as between the siren call of primitive vitality and the modern agenda of social improvement by critical reading. The inculcation of good taste is presented as a sovereign educational aim, yet the ‘perusal’ of authors, so important to Rollin, is demoted to a status below the reception of the spoken word, and Blair goes on to emphasize that ‘Our sympathy is always awakened more, by hearing the Speaker, than by reading his works in our closet’.54 Blair’s lectures submit a belletrist agenda at the same time as they reinstate classical rhetoric by insisting on an ideal of eloquence as powerful speech.55 This conflict is apparent in Blair’s attitude to Shakespeare, who first appears, rather significantly, in the lecture devoted to ‘Criticism’ (III),

54 Ibid. Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, i. 172. On Blair’s ‘enthusiasm for the spoken’ see also Fiona Stafford, ‘Hugh Blair’s Ossian, Romanticism and the Teaching of Literature’, in Crawford (ed.), Scottish Invention, 68–88, and on Blair and classical rhetoric see S. Michael Halloran, ‘Hugh Blair’s Use of Quintilian and the Transformation of Rhetoric in the Eighteenth Century’, in Horner and Leff (eds.), Rhetoric and Pedagogy, 183–95. 53 55

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that is, before the lectures on the origins and progress of language.56 The positioning of Shakespeare within the lecture also suggests something of a hiatus or hesitation in Blair’s thought. He begins by saying that he will explain the terms ‘Taste’, ‘Genius’ and ‘Criticism’, but it is Shakespeare who occupies the uneasy space between the first and last of these three. Blair admits that there are some works that exhibit ‘gross transgressions of the laws of criticism’ yet still manage to achieve greatness. Shakespeare’s plays fall into this category. Though utterly irregular as dramatic poems, Shakespeare ‘pleases by his animated and masterly representations of characters, by the liveliness of his descriptions, the force of his sentiments, and his possessing, beyond all writers, the natural language of passion’.57 Not correct, indeed, but forcible and picturesque: for Blair, Shakespeare was if not a barbarian then certainly a primitive, and while he may not be central to the Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, he nevertheless epitomizes, more than any other writer, the underlying contradiction on which the whole programme is based. So the relations between rhetoric and criticism in the eighteenth century are a little more complicated than the easy progression of speaking, writing, and reading might initially suggest. On the one hand the new belletrism moved rhetoric from the active and masculine art of persuasion, conceived in terms of conflict and competition, to the more passive art of receptive reading, guided by the principles of taste and politeness and directed towards social sympathy—a move that would construct criticism as feminine and peaceful. On the other hand most of the advocates of the new belletrist programme in education were also advocates of the superiority of speech over writing, on the grounds of its greater expressivity. This last point can be assimilated into the concept of literature as a vehicle for social improvement through the example of the elocution movement, but that hardly resolves the basic tension between refinement and primitivism which is so obvious in Blair. That tension is fundamental to the origins of English Studies, as it is also fundamental to Shakespeare in the kind of contexts that I explored in Chapter 4. It helps to explain why Shakespeare has a central role in the subject of English, and it also explains Blair’s

56 Blair has traditionally been credited with the edition of Shakespeare published in 1753, the so-called ‘Scottish Shakespeare’, but there is some doubt as to whether he was actually the editor (see Murphy, Shakespeare in Print, 129–30). 57 Blair, Lectures, i. 50–1.


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ambivalence to Shakespeare. What Blair would have wanted is a Caliban, or a singing cannibal, or an eloquent Iroquois, in a perruque.


Locating the origins of English in the eighteenth-century transformation of rhetoric into criticism is clearly fraught with paradox and contradiction. The ‘auld alliance’ between Scotland and France was certainly never designed to benefit England, so it might seem improbable that the liaison should be allowed a part in the origins of English. That it does so, and that it does so with the help of Shakespeare, is the subject of the remainder of this chapter. But in tracing the emergence of ‘criticism’ it is important also to keep in view the elementary point that the subject of English was conceived as an alternative to and replacement for the study of Latin and Greek, and that the cultivation of the vernacular for educational purposes was not just a peculiarity of socially retarded Scots. The key figure in England in this respect was John Locke, who acts as a bridge between the Renaissance and the eighteenth century. Locke had studied at Westminster, the premier school in the country, under Dr Richard Busby, the sad*stic grammarian of Pope’s Dunciad IV. His success under that regime did not prevent him from taking a critical view of the usefulness of the classical languages in his Some Thoughts Concerning Education, written in 1693: They have been taught Rhetorick, but yet never taught how to express themselves handsomly with their Tongues or Pens in the Language they are always to use . . . To speak or write better Latin than English, may make a Man be talk’d of, but he would find it more to his purpose to Express himself well in his own Tongue.58

So it is English that ‘he should critically study’ and ‘he should daily be exercised in it’.59 Locke is perfectly happy for Latin literature to be used as a stylistic model, but for English rather than Latinate eloquence, and he favours the humanist practice of ‘daily imitation’.60 What he hates is the mechanical imposition of rules: ‘But pray remember, Children 58 The Educational Writings of John Locke, ed. James L. Axtell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 298, 300. Locke’s reformist views on rhetoric can also be seen in ‘A new method of a commonplace book, translated out of the French from the second volume of the Bibliothèque Universelle’ (1706). 59 Educational Writings, ed. Axtell, 301. 60 Ibid. 299.

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are not to be taught by Rules, which will be always slipping out of their Memories. What you think necessary for them to do, settle in them by an indispensible Practice’.61 This is all quite familiar to us from the humanist educational programme of the sixteenth century. The process is the same, but the content is different. So in that sense Locke provides continuity between the Renaissance and the eighteenth century while demanding a much higher status for the vernacular. Like that other, earlier reformer, Peter Ramus, Locke wanted education to be more practical, directed more toward life in the world of business and human affairs as experienced by people of a certain social rank. With regard to political economy it is possible to see him, as Richard Halpern has done, as part of an intellectual genealogy that stretches from Renaissance humanism to Adam Smith.62 Such a genealogy would obviously conform to the model I am proposing for the origins of English, though to address that relationship seriously would require a much more socially and politically grounded study than I am attempting here. Locke was not directly engaged in a programme for English Studies in the way that Erasmus had been with regard to Latin language learning. The institutions that did develop the study of English in England, and put some of Locke’s ideas into practice, were the dissenting academies, founded after the Test Acts in the 1660s by academics who had been expelled from the universities. One of these was Thomas Cole, Locke’s tutor at Oxford, and Locke himself was to be an important influence on some of the later academies.63 These were institutions that pioneered English Studies south of the border when the Scots were developing the new belles-lettres in their own universities. The most famous of the academies, Warrington, opened in 1757, as Blair was beginning his public lectures in Edinburgh, and it was here that William Enfield produced his amazingly successful Speaker and where he expounded the language of emotions and passions taught by nature. Here too Anna Barbauld, daughter of the lecturer John Aikin, acquired the material for her companion Female Speaker for women, published Ibid. 158. Richard Halpern, The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), 95. 63 See Thomas P. Miller, The Formation of College English: Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the British Cultural Provinces (Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997), 89. 61 62


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in 1811.64 The Scots may have been responsible for the earliest university teaching of English, but the programme of English teaching at the dissenting academies was a vigorous contemporary development within England itself which has been masked by the resolutely backward-looking classicism of its two ancient universities. The immediate question, though, is to ask what part Shakespeare plays in all this. Locke could certainly be presented as a spokesman for English in the early eighteenth century, but it seems unlikely that he would have regarded Shakespeare as a suitable model for imitation, and while Shakespeare’s reputation rose inexorably in the course of the century, culminating in his idolization by the Romantics, the question of his status within the academy and his role in the beginnings of English Studies is a good deal less clear. After all, why should a writer whose success depended upon his abusing, however creatively, the benefits of the humanist education system be enthusiastically welcomed as a literary model by eighteenth-century pedagogues? One response to this problem was to claim that Shakespeare did not, in fact, break the rules. This was the line taken by James Harris, whose widely respected work Hermes: or, A Philosophical Inquiry concerning Language and Universal Grammar (1751) was the main source for Robert Watson’s lectures at St Andrews.65 The following year he published a pamphlet with the title Upon the Rise and Progress of Criticism, another work in the vogue for ‘origins’, where he announced that ‘There is hardly any thing we applaud, among his innumerable beauties, which will not be found strictly conformable to the RULES of sound and antient Criticism’. He goes on to claim that this is ‘true with respect to his CHARACTERS and his SENTIMENTS’, which is why, ‘in explaining these Rules, we have so often recurred to him for Illustrations’.66 Not many critics have cast Shakespeare as a model of academic rectitude, but what is in some ways an even stranger defence was offered a year or two later by William Hawkins, Professor of 64 On Barbauld see John Guillory, ‘Literary Capital: Gray’s “Elegy”, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and the Vernacular Canon’, in John Brewer and Susan Staves (eds.), Early Modern Conceptions of Property (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 389–410, and Leah Price, The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 71–3; Aikin was described by George Saintsbury as ‘the first systematic lecturer in English Literature’ (see Miller, College English, 99—and for a fuller account of the dissenting academies). 65 I am grateful to Mr Robert Smart, former archivist at St Andrews University, for this information. Harris does not, however, seem to be the source for Watson’s identification of rhetoric with criticism. 66 James Harris, Philological Inquiries, 2 vols. (London, 1781), ii. 225–6.

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Poetry at Oxford from 1751 to 1756. Hawkins chose to lecture on Shakespeare, explaining that drama is not bound to follow a strict set of rules, especially those established by French critics, and that Shakespeare’s great strengths lie in figurative speech, which has the power of vivid representation, and in his use of imagery.67 This is, of course, a quite unexceptional case to make. The bizarre aspect of it is that Hawkins was required to deliver his lectures in Latin. This means that when praising Shakespeare’s diction the passages he quotes are given in Latin translation, not English. In view of what was happening elsewhere in the 1750s, to describe Oxford as backward-looking now seems faintly inadequate. Hawkins’s lectures represent a moment of superb contradiction in the academic reception of Shakespeare. The tribute is paid only in terms that destroy the basis of its validity. Shakespeare’s expressive genius is served up to the University not as a distinctively English achievement, as Richard Hurd wanted to emphasize, but in an academically processed language which erases the very qualities that are being held up for admiration. Not so much Caliban in a perruque as the English bard in gown and mortar board. Shakespeare did, however, manage to establish a position in eighteenth-century education without having to appear in full academic dress. The tradition of the school play, now transferred to the vernacular, gave him a foothold for a start,68 and the elocution movement of the second half of the century capitalized on that. As a vehicle for the teaching of language as living speech, Shakespeare was in a class of his own. As a stylistic model his status was obviously more debatable, but he was helped here by the cult of the sublime which allowed his faults to be vaporized in the fiery glow of genius. When Mark Akenside produced his module report on great writers in Dodsley’s magazine The Museum in 1746 (‘The Balance of Poets’), marking them on a twentypoint scale, Shakespeare shared first place with Homer at 18. He scored heavily on ‘Dramatic Expression’, ‘Incidental Expression’, ‘Pathetic Ordonnance’, and ‘Moral’, but fared badly under ‘Taste’ and was given zero for ‘Critical Ordonnance’. One noticeable feature of the scheme is that the marks do not have to add up. The all-consuming test 67 William Hawkins, Praelectiones poeticae in schola naturalis philosophiae Oxon., in Collected Works (Oxford, 1758), ii. 89–91, 95; see also J. W. Binns, ‘Some Lectures on Shakespeare in Eighteenth-Century Oxford: The Praelectiones poeticae of William Hawkins’, in Bernhard Fabian and Kurt Tetzeli von Rosador (eds.), Shakespeare: Text, Language, Criticism: Essays in Honour of Marvin Spevack (Hildesheim: OlmsWeidmann, 1987), 19–33. 68 See Michael, Teaching of English, 297–303.


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of sublimity seems to have dispensed with the more mundane requirements of arithmetic. But Akenside was not an academic or a schoolteacher, and most such people would have placed ‘Taste’ and ‘Critical Ordonnance’ quite high on their agendas. For this reason, many eighteenth-century anthologies designed specifically as school textbooks, but without an elocutionary purpose, give more prominence to Milton, Pope, Addison, and other modern writers than they do to Shakespeare.69 This is something that needs to be kept in mind when making the case for Shakespeare’s role in the origins of English. While his status rose ever higher in almost every context outside the classroom in the course of the century, within the classroom the extent of a student’s exposure to Shakespeare would have depended on the kind of anthology the teacher chose to use and the level of importance they attached to the performative aspects of English. That said, what needs to be emphasized here is that the origins of English as a subject are inseparable from much wider social, cultural, and political issues to which Shakespeare is undoubtedly central. These are issues that I have already addressed in the first part of this chapter. What I want to do now is to explain more specifically how they relate to Shakespeare. The single most important aspect of Shakespeare’s elevation in status during the eighteenth century lies in the recognition that he is, supremely, the dramatist of the passions. This is a supplement to, or explanation of, his established role as ‘the poet of nature’, rather than a rebranding, and it is evident in many anthologies of the period, as we have seen, most strikingly in Enfield’s Speaker. This characterization of Shakespeare’s genius can be traced back at least as far as Margaret Cavendish’s essay,70 but the critic who might reasonably be given credit for fixing the label is John Dennis, writing in An Essay upon the Genius and Writings of Shakespeare (1712): 69 See Michael, Teaching of English, 195–9. It is this point that leads Richard Terry to argue that the kind of syllabus instituted by Smith and Blair has a fairly slight connection with modern English Studies, Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past, 205. While I accept the caution, my own emphases are somewhat different. 70 ‘[H]e Presents Passions so Naturally, and Misfortunes so Probably, as he Pierces the Souls of his Readers with such a True Sense and Feeling thereof, that it Forces Tears through their Eyes’, CCXI Sociable Letters [1664] in Ann Thompson and Sasha Roberts (eds.), Women Reading Shakespeare, 1660–1900: An Anthology of Criticism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), 13. This was the first critical essay to be published on Shakespeare. At the same time the educational value of studying the passions as an aspect of rhetoric was noted by John Aubrey [c.1669] (see Aubrey on Education, 122).

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He had so fine a Talent for touching the Passions, and they are so lively in him and so truly in Nature, that they often touch us more without their due Preparations than those of other Tragick Poets, who have all the Beauty of Design and all the Advantage of Incidents.71

This is echoed by Pope at the start of the preface to his edition of Shakespeare, where he states that ‘The Power over our Passions was never possess’d in a more eminent degree or display’d in so different instances’.72 Rather more memorably, Pope also wrote of his friend John Arbuthnot that Un-learned, he knew no Schoolman’s subtle Art No Language, but the Language of the Heart.73

These are the words of an Augustan anticipating the age of sensibility, and Shakespeare’s own genius for speaking the language of the heart through his command over the passions is commented on again and again through the century, eventually reaching the academic arena (in the vernacular). William Richardson, Professor of Humanity at Glasgow University, was to tell members of the Literary Society around 1780 that ‘We often confound the writer who imitates the passions with him who only describes them. Shakespeare imitates, Corneille describes.’74 He cites Kames as ‘the first writer who has taken any notice of this important distinction between the imitation and description of a passion’, and argues that Shakespeare ‘unites the two essential powers of dramatic invention, that of forming characters; and that of imitating, in their natural expressions, the passions and affections of which they are composed’. He also says that the design of his book ‘by no means coincides’ with that of the ‘ingenious’ Elizabeth Montagu.75 What Richardson was in fact presenting here was a distillation of the culture wars that had begun in earnest twenty years earlier. These wars involve Corneille, Kames, Mrs Montagu, and, centrally, Voltaire. They also provide a rather different context for the French contribution to the origins of English. Vickers (ed.), Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, ii. 282. 73 ‘An Epistle to D. Arbuthnot’, ll. 398–9. Works of Shakespear,vol. i, p. iii. 74 William Richardson, A Philosophical Analysis and Illustration of Some of Shakespeare’s Remarkable Characters, 2nd edn. (London, 1774), 25. Richardson refers to his Shakespearean essays as having been ‘read before a Literary Society in the College of Glasgow’, in Essays on Shakespeare’s Dramatic Characters (London, 1784), p. v. It is true that we cannot be certain that Richardson’s earlier work was aired in the same forum, but it seems likely. 75 Richardson, Philosophical Analysis, 37 n., 40. 71 72


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It was Voltaire who offered the fiercest opposition to the growth of Shakespeare idolatry, and the story of his long engagement with Shakespeare tracks the fortunes of French and English cultural values over the course of the eighteenth century. During his visit to England in the late 1720s, when French taste was still supreme, he was able to react to the nine plays he saw performed with a mixture of excitement and condescension. For Voltaire, Shakespeare was the English wild man, the barbarian (his favourite epithet for Shakespeare is ‘barbare’), who was nonetheless capable of moments of extraordinary dramatic power. Something of the emotional impact that Shakespeare made on him can be glimpsed in the letter he wrote about the death of his sister in 1726, which alludes to Hamlet,76 but his earliest public pronouncement comes in the Lettres philosophiques, written about 1729 and first published in English. Voltaire grants that Shakespeare ‘was natural and sublime, but had not so much as a single Spark of good Taste, or knew one Rule of the Drama’, and argues that his ‘whimsical, gigantic Images’ have only ‘acquir’d a Right of passing for sublime’ through length of time. He then offers a French version of ‘To be or not to be . . .’ in rhymed alexandrines, adding rather unnecessarily that the reader should not suppose that he has ‘translated Shakespear in a servile Manner’, and after some comments on Shakespeare’s figurative style, he moves into figurative mode himself to reach a conclusion. Too much regularity can be ‘flat and insipid’, he agrees. By contrast, The shining Monsters of Shakespear, give infinite more Delight than the judicious Images of the Moderns. Hitherto the poetical Genius of the English resembles a tufted Tree planted by the Hand of Nature, that throws out a thousand Branches at random, and spreads unequally, but with great Vigour. It dies if you attempt to force its Nature, and to lop and dress it in the same Manner as the Trees of the Garden of Marli.77

What is particularly revealing about this account is that Voltaire cannot resist doing what he explicitly warns against doing: that is, lopping and dressing Shakespeare in neoclassical style. The source of the temptation can be found in the metaphor. Underlying the tribute to Shakespeare’s vitality is the suspicion that this barbaric English genius is like a rampant strain of ground elder, threatening to invade the cultivated and orderly garden of French taste. And that is exactly what happened. 76 Voltaire on Shakespeare, ed. Theodore Besterman, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, liv (Geneva: Institut et Museé Voltaire, 1967), 43. 77 Ibid. 44–50.

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It is worth pointing out here, in view of Shakespeare’s very distinctive reputation, that everyone has always agreed that writers should imitate nature. The disagreements concern the kinds of artifice with which this is done. And as far as the opposition between French and English cultural values is concerned, it was the French, in the earlier part of the century at least, who claimed to speak the language of the heart. In the dedication of his play Zaïre (1736), addressed to his friend, the British merchant and later diplomat Sir Everard Fawkener, Voltaire claimed that You have to submit yourselves to the rules of our theatre, as we have to embrace your philosophy. We have made as good investigations of the human heart as you have in physics. The art of giving pleasure seems to belong to the French, while yours appears to be the art of thinking.78

From a Shakespearean perspective this seems a rather startling role reversal, but since French theatre was concerned almost exclusively with love it would have made sense within certain limits. Those limits are signalled by Voltaire’s minatory reference to the ‘rules’. So it is perhaps even more of a surprise to find, less than thirty years later, the anonymous Scottish translator of Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, President of the French Academy and ally of Voltaire, praising this staunch defender of French taste in terms that seem far from neoclassical: The Piece upon Eloquence discovers to us the true foundation of the sublime, and, by resolving it solely into the genuine sentiments of the heart, strongly conceived and clearly expressed, exposes the futility of those false systems of rhetoric, which would reduce eloquence to a mechanical science, when it is the gift of nature alone.79

And then to hear d’Alembert himself (in the words of his translator) admit that ‘All the rules in the world could never have inspired Shakespeare’s admirable soliloquy in Hamlet’.80 Voltaire and d’Alembert claim the same territory of the language of the heart, but on quite different terms, and it is Shakespeare who drives the cultural shift 78 ‘Vous devez vous soumettre au rêgles de notre théâtre, comme nous devons embrasser votre philosophie. Nous avons fait d’aussi bonnes experiences sur le coeur humain que vous sur la physique. L’art de plaire semble l’art des Français, et l’art de penser paraît le vôtre’ (Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, ed. Louis Moland (Paris, 1877), ii. 554). 79 Miscellanies concerning Literature, History, Philosophy, and other Subjects of the Belles Lettres by Mr D’Alembert (Glasgow, 1765), 3–4. (I am assuming the translator is a Scot.) 80 Ibid. 32.


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which that difference in terms represents. It is Shakespeare who moves the balance between France and Britain in the mid-eighteenth century. The new belletrism that the Scots imported from France was the product of the first half of the century, when French cultural values dominated Europe. Naturalized in Britain, it was then transformed by the cult of Shakespeare which swept Europe in the second half of the century,81 displacing the French as arbiters of taste and leaving Voltaire in an increasingly isolated position. The origins of English as a subject may be attributed to French ideas, but its growth also coincides with the recession of French influence. For Voltaire the crisis was provoked by the publication in 1760 of an unsigned ‘parallel’ between Shakespeare and Corneille in the Journal encyclopédique. The comparison, which was very much to Shakespeare’s advantage, was interpreted by Voltaire as an attack on France’s position as the cultural leader of Europe, and he appealed to every country from Russia to the Kingdom of Naples to defend the continent from this invasion of English barbarism.82 By this point the military language was not merely metaphorical. Britain and France were now engaged in the imperial struggle of the Seven Years War of 1756–63 and Voltaire started to see the cultural debate in military and imperial terms, with Racine and Corneille as national champions ready to engage in single combat with ‘Gilles Shakespeare’. Voltaire began work on his edition of Corneille in 1762. In the same year Kames brought out his Elements of Criticism, which contained further disparaging accounts of Racine and Corneille by comparison with the English bard. Voltaire reviewed the book in the Gazette littéraire in 1764, taking particular exception to Kames’s ridiculing of a line from Racine’s Iphigénie: Mais tout dort, et l’armée, et les vents, et Neptune.83 81 Especially in Germany, where Herder described Shakespeare’s plays in 1773 as a ‘godlike art’ by comparison with ‘that glib classical thing that Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire have produced’, Nisbet (ed.), German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism, 161–76. Interestingly in the present context, the first significant German appraisal of Shakespeare, Wieland’s ‘Theory and History of Rhetoric and Poetry’, in which he discusses Shakespeare’s ‘small world’ of ‘the human heart’, was delivered to a class of schoolchildren (see Williams, Shakespeare on the German Stage, 12). 82 Appel à toutes les nations de l’Europe des jugements d’un écrivain anglais, in Voltaire on Shakespeare, ed. Besterman, 63–80. 83 Voltaire, Oeuvres complètes, xxiv, 161. There is considerable irony in the fact that Voltaire’s dismissive conclusion to the review (‘Chacun a son goût’) should have entered the English language in its French form.

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Here, at least, Voltaire was right. Although he was fighting a losing battle, it is possible to see, or rather hear, in this perfect expression of the French neoclassical sublime, just what he was fighting for. The French armies had also been fighting losing battles, but it was the attack on French drama that Voltaire felt most deeply. Writing to the Count and Countess of Argental about his review of Kames’s Elements, he commented: ‘As long as the British have been content to take our vessels and seize Canada and Pondicherry, I have been content to maintain a noble silence. But now that they push barbarity to the point of finding Racine and Corneille ridiculous, I have to take up arms.’84 As the precise antithesis of the Nazi one-liner ‘When I hear the word “culture” I reach for my gun’,85 Voltaire’s sentiment is admirable, but he underestimated the significance of the imperial contest. Maurice Morgann boasted in his Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff (1777), ‘when the very name of Voltaire, and even the memory of the language in which he has written, shall be no more, the Apalachian mountains, the banks of the Ohio and the plains of Scioto shall resound with the accents of this Barbarian’.86 Morgann exaggerated a little, but it is true that military success in the two main theatres of the Seven Years War, North America and India, was to be an important stepping stone for the establishment of English as an international language, as Sheridan had advocated in British Education. Voltaire’s error was not to realize that the colonial losses he was willing to tolerate would in fact lead to the international domination of French by the language and literature of Britain. The last scene in Voltaire’s struggle against British bardolatry took place in 1776. This was the year that saw the first complete translation of Shakespeare into French, by Pierre Le Tourneur. Published in twenty volumes by subscription, Voltaire was appalled to see the king, Louis XVI, at the head of the list of sponsors. Others came from all over Europe, a crushing response to his 1761 appeal for solidarity against 84 ‘Tant que les Anglais se sont contentés de prendre nos vaisseaux et de s’emparer du Canada et de Pondicheri, j’ai gardé un noble silence. Mais à présent qu’ils poussent la barbarie jusqu’à trouver Racine et Corneille ridicules, je dois prendre les armes’ (in Voltaire’s Correspondence, ed. Theodore Besterman (Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire, 1953–65), liv. 42. 85 Usually attributed to Hermann Goering, but actually from Hanns Johst’s play Schlägeter (1933): ‘Whenever I hear the word “culture” . . . I release the safety-catch of my Browning’. 86 Maurice Morgann: Shakespearian Criticism, ed. Daniel A. Fineman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 170.


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the English invader. In France a notable example of treachery was Diderot, who put himself down for six copies. So now the barbarian was no longer at the gates, but inside the citadel, and Voltaire decided to address the French Academy on the subject of this almost apocalyptic threat. What particularly incensed him was the nagging awareness that he had himself been responsible for letting the génie out of the bottle: ‘It was I who was the first to speak of this Shakespeare at an earlier time; it was I who was the first to show the French people some pearls that I found in his huge heap of dung’, he complained to the Count of Argental.87 The letter to the French Academy was read out on 25 August 1776 in the presence of the British ambassador and Elizabeth Montagu, who had specifically attacked Voltaire in her Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare (1769). The familiar catalogue of Shakespeare’s barbarisms and vulgarities was rehearsed, Corneille’s Pompée was set against King Lear, and Kames was again reprimanded for his disrespectful treatment of Racine.88 But it was all too late. Forty years earlier Voltaire had told another British ambassador that it was the French who spoke the language of the heart. Mrs Montagu reversed the proposition: it is Shakespeare’s characters who ‘speak with human voices, are actuated by human passions, and are engaged in the common affairs of human life . . . Love and ambition are the subjects of the French plays . . . Shakespeare, in various nature wise, does not confine himself to any particular passion.’ His sympathy with the common people is a virtue: ‘Great knowledge of the human heart had informed him, how easy it is to excite a sympathy with things believed real . . . He wrote to please an untaught people, guided wholly by their feelings.’89 These views are carried over directly into the new French Shakespeare, not necessarily from Mrs Montagu, for they are now part of the spirit of the age: ‘Never before, indeed, has a man of genius penetrated further into the depths of the human heart than Shakespeare, or been better able to make the language of nature speak to the passions’,

87 ‘C’est moi qui autrefois parlai le premier de ce Shakespear; c’est moi qui le premier montrai au Français quelques perles que j’avais trouvées dans son énorme fumier’ (Voltaire on Shakespeare, ed. Besterman, 175). 88 Ibid. 186–209. 89 [Elizabeth Montagu], An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear, Compared with the Greek and French Dramatic Poets: With Some Remarks upon the Misrepresentations of Mons. de Voltaire (London, 1769), 81–2. The book was published anonymously. Voltaire responded to the French translation in a second letter to the Academy, issued the following year.

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Le Tourneur wrote in his dedication to Louis XVI.90 Le Tourneur’s statement perfectly sums up the terms on which Shakespeare, representing a distinctively English literary culture, had now graduated from the status of mere national poet to international pre-eminence as a writer of unparalleled genius. Genius, in the end, is the operative word.91 The long struggle between French and English, or ‘British’, cultural values can ultimately be reduced to the competing claims of ‘taste’ and ‘genius’, the disputed territory where Hugh Blair rather uncomfortably lodged Shakespeare. And at this point we can replace Voltaire’s characterization of the two cultures in 1736 with Adam Smith’s ‘Letter to the Authors of the Edinburgh Review’ of 1755, where he states that ‘If we may pass any general judgement concerning the literary merit of those two great rivals in learning, trade, government and war: Imagination, genius and invention, seem to be the talents of the English; taste, judgement, propriety and order, of the French.’92 Such a distinction would have been quite unacceptable to Voltaire, who insisted in his essay on ‘Genius’ that ‘Genius directed by taste never leads to the fault of coarseness . . . Genius without taste commits the most terrible blunders, and what is worse, it does not feel them.’93 And in a complementary essay on ‘Taste’ he attributes the expansion of ‘Shakespeare’s empire’ to the ‘common English [who] prefer princes who speak of wrongs and women who roll over on the stage’.94 It is a nice irony that Voltaire’s high-minded attack on Hamlet and English lack of taste should be expressed in terms that make him sound very like Hamlet himself, disdainfully recoiling from ‘commonness’.95 90 ‘Jamais, en effet, homme de génie ne pénétra plus avant que SHAKESPEARE dans l’abîme du coeur humain, & ne fit mieux parler au passions le langage de la Nature’, Shakespeare Traduit de l’Anglois (Paris, 1776), i. A1v. Le Tourneur simply ignored Voltaire in the preface, but his description of Shakespeare’s works as ‘peintures naïves & vraies’ (A4r) uses the very terms that Voltaire had done in a letter of 10 February 1762 (see Voltaire on Shakespeare, ed. Besterman, 82). It is an indication of how far Voltaire’s opinion had changed. 91 See esp. Bate, The Genius of Shakespeare. 92 Edinburgh Review, 2 (1755–6), 65. 93 ‘Le génie conduit par le goût ne fera jamais de faute grossière . . . Le génie sans goût en commettra d’énormes; et ce qu’il y a de pis, c’est qu’il ne les sentira pas’ (Oeuvres complètes, xix. 246). 94 ‘Rien n’a plus contribué a l’affermissem*nt de l’empire de Shakespeare . . . le vulgaire anglais aime mieux des princes qui se disent des injures, des femmes qui se roulent sur la scène’ (ibid. 280). 95 Elaine Cuvelier cites the essay on taste and perceptively identifies Voltaire with Hamlet in ‘Shakespeare, Voltaire, and French Taste’, Shakespeare Yearbook, 5 (1995), 25–47.


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His reference to Shakespeare’s ‘empire’, however, also reminds us that Voltaire saw the conflict between taste and genius in the context of a different and very real war. He was not alone. Britons too saw it in that way, not least William Guthrie, another Scot and the first translator of Quintilian into English. Guthrie had engaged in his own AngloFrench skirmish in 1747 when he replied to Jean Bernard Le Blanc’s Letters on the English and French Nations with an extravagant defence of Shakespeare: ‘where is the Briton so much of a Frenchman as to prefer the highest stretch of modern improvement to the meanest spark of Shakespeare’s genius? Yet to our eternal amazement it is true, that for above half a century the poets and the patrons of poetry in England abandoned the sterling merit of Shakespeare for the tinsel ornaments of the French academy.’96 And he was equally uncompromising on the subject of taste when he reviewed Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare in 1765. Johnson, he claimed, had ‘run into the vulgar practice’ of judging Shakespeare by ‘the rules of the French academy’ and ‘the criterions of taste’. This is all quite irrelevant to Shakespeare who ‘proceeds by storm. He knows nothing of regular approaches to the fort of the human heart. He effects his breach by the weight of his metal, and makes his lodgment though the enemy’s artillery is thundering round him from every battery of criticism, learning, and even probability’.97 Translating Shakespeare’s language of the heart into a heavyweight cannon might not be the most convincing way of establishing the superiority of Shakespearean genius over French taste, but it certainly emphasizes the point that both sides viewed the culture wars as an extension of the actual military conflict that was taking place in and between their growing empires. Those culture wars, epitomized in the story of Voltaire’s long and tormented relationship with Shakespeare, have a part in the origins of English because they offer the best illustration of the wider issues surrounding the foundation of the Regius Chair in 1762. These were still live issues when William Richardson addressed the subject of Shakespeare from his own chair at Glasgow in the following decade. Nor is it a coincidence that the Edinburgh lecture programme and many of the key texts associated with it are the product of the years 1756–63, the period of the Seven Years War itself. Professing English was a patriotic enterprise. But, as we have seen already, in the case of 96 97

Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, III, 194. Ibid. v. 212.

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Hugh Blair himself, the claims of taste cannot easily be dismissed within an academic context in favour of the claims of a rampaging barbarian genius. Writing against the academy, especially a French academy, is of course a very Shakespearean activity, and one that would present no problems for a William Guthrie or Elizabeth Montagu, but if you happen to represent the academy you are inevitably a little more compromised. The figure who does manage to reconcile the demands of the academy with the claims of imaginative genius is not the professor, but the sponsor, Henry Home, Lord Kames. In doing so he puts into practice the transition from rhetoric to criticism initiated by Lamy and creates a blueprint for the future development of English. The first part of Kames’s Elements of Criticism consists of a lengthy discussion of the passions and offers a psychological theory of how literature works on the reader, or audience (for Kames thinks that drama is the most powerful branch of literature), but it begins by stressing the importance of criticism in education. This is Kames’s starting point, and it underpins everything that follows: ‘To have, in this respect, a just conception of the importance of criticism, we need but reflect upon the common method of education; which, after some years spent in acquiring languages, hurries us, without the least preparatory discipline, into the most profound philosophy’. Since this is bound to ‘alienate the tender mind from abstract science’, the function of criticism is to mediate, ‘connecting the different parts of education into a regular chain’. This is achieved by the development of taste, and it is the business of criticism to develop taste not by laying down a rigid aesthetic code, but by addressing the feelings: ‘criticism tends to improve the heart not less than the understanding’. The crucial point for Kames is that good taste, and therefore criticism, works for the benefit of society because it has the power of exciting sympathy. The concept of sympathy is at the centre of Kames’s thought in the book: ‘delicacy of taste necessarily heightens our sensibility of pain and pleasure, and of course our sympathy, which is the capital branch of every social passion’. This leads to the emphatic conclusion that, contrary to French opinion on the matter (he cites Bossu), ‘human nature [is] the true source of criticism’ and ‘the genuine rules of criticism are all of them derived from the human heart’.98 So the argument of Kames’s introduction is, in essence, that literary criticism has a vital role to play in 98 Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 2nd edn., 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1763), i. 9–16.


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education because it has the social function of exciting sympathy by educating the human heart. The argument depends upon a reconceptualization of rhetoric which emphasizes its psychological dimension. This was to be set out most clearly in George Campbell’s The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1776).99 What it emphasizes in particular is the importance of liveliness, Renaissance enargeia: rhetoric appeals to the imagination by representing ideas with vivid particularity. For Kames this is the way that literature works to create sympathy: ‘The power of language to raise emotions, depends entirely on the raising such lively and distinct images as are here described: the reader’s passions are never sensibly moved, till he be thrown into a kind of reverie.’ The vital power of literature, Kames says, lies in its ability to make absent things appear to be present: In appearance, at least, what can be more slight than ideal presence of objects? and yet upon it entirely is superstructed, that extensive influence which language has over the heart; an influence, which, more than any other means, strengthens the bonds of society . . . without it, the finest speaker or writer would in vain attempt to move any passion, our sympathy would be confined to objects that are really present; and language would lose entirely that signal power it possesseth, of making us sympathize with beings removed at the greatest distance of time as well as of place.100

As far as its emphasis on liveliness is concerned, the new rhetoric of the eighteenth century is not particularly new. Writers on English poetry in the Renaissance period constantly use liveliness as a critical touchstone, as we saw at the start of this book. What is new, however, is the argument that enargeia is the agent of social bonding. Taking a long view of the subject, then, we have a transition from rhetoric to criticism which moves its focus from active persuasion to the more passive skills of reception (judging those who write, as Lamy put it), but which also, in Kames’s formulation, recasts it in terms of active sympathy. By placing this within an educational context Kames lays down the social and ethical, as well as the intellectual, foundations for the study of English.

99 The philosophical context for the new rhetoric, which cannot be discussed here, is provided by Locke (on sensations) and Adam Smith and David Hume (on sympathy). There is a useful summary of Campbell’s views by Winifred Bryan Horner and Shelley Aley in Michael G. Moran (ed.), Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1994), 52–64. 100 Kames, Elements of Criticism, i. 117.


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Shakespeare is central here. He is for Kames the supreme exponent of both vivid particularity and the language of the heart, and he is by far the largest source of illustration in the Elements. He is ‘the finest genius for the drama the world ever enjoyed’,101 but genius is now reconciled with taste through the operations of sympathy, and Elizabeth Montagu was probably drawing upon this aspect of Kames’s work when she expressed similar views in her own essay on Shakespeare. His genius lies in his being ‘superior to all other writers in delineating passion. It is difficult to say in what part he most excels, whether in moulding every passion to peculiarity of character, in discovering the sentiments that proceed from various tones of passion, or in expressing properly every different sentiment.’102 This is why he thinks Shakespeare’s soliloquies should be regarded as a model, and why, in the passage that so upset Voltaire, he thinks Hamlet far superior to the characters of Corneille.103 As these passages make clear, the language of the heart is really inseparable from the principle of vivid particularity, and it is so because both are essential to the delineation of character. Later on he notes that ‘To draw a character is the master-stroke of description. In this Tacitus excels: his portraits are natural and lively’, but Shakespeare ‘exceeds Tacitus in liveliness’ (Graziano is cited from The Merchant of Venice, 1.1).104 And again: ‘Abstract or general terms have no good effect in any composition for amusem*nt; because it is only of particular objects that images can be formed. Shakespear’s style in that respect is excellent: every article in his description is particular, as in nature’ (Falstaff is cited from I Henry IV, 2.5).105 Shakespeare’s mastery of the range of human emotions, his language of the heart, is always realized, Kames argues, in the vitality of the concrete and particular. Finally, all the above depends upon individuality of expression, a point which again returns us to issues raised in the first chapter of this book. Kames does not stress the superiority of speech over writing as Blair and others do, and, as one might expect of a judge, he was not much of a primitivist. But he is a great admirer of the flexibility of Shakespearean blank verse in representing ordinary speech, and also of its freedom; although it ‘hath so many circ*mstances in common with rhyme . . . free from the fetters of rhyme, it is at liberty to attend the

101 104

Ibid. ii. 219–20. Ibid. ii. 337.

102 105

Ibid. ii. 217–18. Ibid. ii. 352.


Ibid. ii. 224–5.


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imagination in its boldest flights’.106 And, most tellingly, he expects both the silent reader and the performer to supply the oral dimension to the written work: Dramatic writers ought to be well acquainted with this natural manner of expressing passion: the chief talent of such a writer, is a ready command of the expression that nature dictates to every person when any vivid emotion struggles for utterance; and the chief talent of a fine reader, is a ready command of tones suited to those expressions.107

It is a point that complements Kames’s remark about ‘peculiarity of character’ in Shakespeare, as well as situating the Elements within the wider context of the ‘Speakers’ and the elocution movement, and linking it to the much more radical educational programmes inspired by Rousseau. One radical with an interest in both speech and Shakespeare was David Williams, who set up Laurence Academy, a Rousseauist school in Chelsea, in 1773, along with a reformist society whose members included Benjamin Franklin. The following year this ‘Orpheus, Priest of Nature’, as Franklin called him,108 published A Treatise of Education, which paid tribute to Locke and Rousseau and derided the ‘vicious’ state of contemporary public eloquence. ‘Nothing like a school of eloquence has been formed; and when the orator died, oratory was no more’, Williams lamented. But it was a different matter in the theatre, where Garrick had ‘established the dominion of nature’ and arrested the decline of English into frigid correctness. Most importantly, Garrick had enabled Shakespeare ‘to live again, and more than ever to affect the English manners and language’ and, Williams announces, ‘It is owing to our being able to read and understand the plays of Shakespear, that our manner of writing has in some instances rather improved than degenerated.’109 For Shakespeare to be seen as an aid to better English, rather than in need of improvement himself, is something of a landmark. Supported on all sides by the new philo106 Kames, Elements of Criticism, ii. 451–2. Voltaire, on the other hand, thought that blank verse was just laziness (see Voltaire on Shakespeare, ed. Besterman, 225). 107 Kames, Elements of Criticism, ii. 123; see also Nicholas Hudson, Writing and European Thought, 1600–1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 112. 108 See Nicholas A. Hans, New Trends in Education in the Eighteenth Century (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951), 163. 109 David Williams, A Treatise on Education (London, 1774), 148–53. See also David Williams, Incidents in My Own Life, edited with an account of his published writing by Peter France (Brighton: University of Sussex Library, 1980).

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sophical criticism, the elocution movement, theatrical practice, and radical pedagogy, Shakespeare is ready to enter the classroom. This account of the origins of English has now reached the gates of Romanticism. The story of the Romantic reception of Shakespeare, in particular, is well known, but the present discussion provides other leads into that culturally transforming phenomenon. Much of what Kames has to say about sympathy, the passions, and the language of the heart is echoed by Wordsworth. The passage on ‘ideal presence’ recalls the point in the preface to Lyrical Ballads where the poet is described as having ‘a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present’. Wordsworth continues with reflections on the passions, ‘general sympathy’, and pain and pleasure, and all this is framed by the opening definition of the poet as ‘a man speaking to men’.110 Kames’s account of the way in which people are influenced towards ‘acts of generosity and benevolence’ is repeated in Wordsworth’s poem ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’, where the cause of kindness is ‘That we have all of us one human heart’ (l. 146). The preface is, of course, a more radical document than the Elements, but some of its central ideas are those of Kames’s work, given a more democratic inflection. There are other routes into Romanticism. This chapter has been much concerned with the French connection; with how English Studies sprang from the germ of French ideas and how an Anglophone literary culture, driven by the adulation of Shakespeare, led to the eclipse of French values in the mid-eighteenth century. But it is important also to mention Germany, however fleetingly, because there also the cult of Shakespeare developed in opposition to French taste. Here too Kames acted as Shakespeare’s spokesman. The Elements was translated into German the year after its British publication and was reissued four times before the end of the century. For Herder, Kames was ‘the Aristotle of this British Sophocles’.111 It is possible, too, that Germany provided Kames with another, rather devious route back into English Romanticism through Coleridge. Ian Simpson Ross has written that ‘A conjecture to be seriously entertained is that many of Kames’s ideas on 110 Lyrical Ballads, ed. R. L. Brett and A. R. Jones (London and New York: Routledge, 1988), 255–6. Duncan Wu has argued persuasively for the influence of James Beattie’s philosophical writings, especially his Dissertations Moral and Critical (1783), on Wordsworth (see Wordsworth: An Inner Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 16–17). If Wordsworth had read Beattie it is improbable that he would not also have read Kames. 111 German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism, ed. Nisbet, 175.


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aesthetics passed into English critical thought through Coleridge, who had encountered them in their reconstituted form in the writings of the German Romantic movement’.112 This is not the place to pursue that conjecture. In a more elementary way, Kames’s ideas on criticism , the importance of English literature in education, and the pre-eminent example of Shakespeare percolated through Romanticism to become the received wisdom of the Victorian teaching of English. By the late nineteenth century it was a commonplace to claim that the subject helped to ‘promote sympathy and fellow feeling among all classes’.113 Speaking the language of the heart, Shakespeare the barbarian emerges as the agent of civility. Ross, Lord Kames, 289–90. Chris Baldick, The Social Mission of English Criticism, 1848–1932 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), 62, citing How to Teach English Literature (1880). 112 113

Afterword The fortunes of rhetoric and the fortunes of Shakespeare in the academy have followed different trajectories. Rhetoric ended up in a culde-sac, despised by critics who were working with Romantic notions of organic form in opposition to what were perceived as mechanical rules. That same opposition was used to promote Shakespeare, so (rather perversely in view of the rhetorical origins of Shakespeare) rhetoric suffered where Shakespeare thrived. By the early twentieth century, when even Oxford and Cambridge had decided that they had better do English, rhetoric was moribund in Britain. I. A. Richards, who along with Empson and Leavis created at Cambridge what was probably the most powerful agenda for English in the history of the subject, based on ‘practical criticism’, said as much in the introduction to his lectures on ‘The Philosophy of Rhetoric’ delivered in 1936. Richards was interested there in relating his own concept of practical criticism, specifically his thoughts on the workings of metaphor and the relationship between tenor and vehicle, to a rhetorical tradition. What he focused on was in fact Lord Kames on Shakespeare. We have to go beyond his theories, he says, but ‘we must not forget that they are beginnings, first steps in a great and novel venture, the attempt to explain in detail how language works and with it to improve communication’.1 The fact that the father of practical criticism and close reading was able to identify his own precursor in the writer who effectively translated rhetoric into criticism underlines the continuity between rhetoric and what we do in English departments, even now. Cambridge might also be identified with the subsequent phase in the development of English Studies, the radical or cultural turn, in the person of Raymond Williams. By the time Williams came to give his valedictory lectures in 1983 ‘theory’ was in full spate and his Marxist sympathies had entered the mainstream. What Williams had to say about the subject, both retrospectively and prospectively, at the point of his retirement is still of great interest. It was, in fact, in Marxism and 1 I. A. Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1936), 17–18.



Literature (1977) that he had claimed the ‘replacement of the disciplines of grammar and rhetoric . . . by the discipline of criticism’ as ‘a central intellectual movement of the bourgeois period’.2 With some consistency, then, he pinpoints in the retirement lectures what he calls ‘language in history: that full field’ as the central object of study for English, where language is to be understood as inseparable from ‘the whole set of social practices and relationships which define writers and readers as active human beings’.3 What Williams is doing here is giving a Marxist turn to the business of expression. This becomes more explicit in the second of the two lectures, where he sets out three desiderata for English: the ‘close historical analysis of the language and conventions of plays and poems and novels and arguments’; the ‘now equally necessary analysis of speech and writing with images, in close work on film and television’; and a study of the ‘complex interactions of oral and written and written-for-oral forms which run through our cultural history’.4 This effectively reinstates rhetoric in its broadest sense as central to English. Yet it is this aspect of Williams’s work that has been largely ignored over the last two decades, with the exception of a rather simplified version of media studies, as questions to do with language and forms of expression have been pushed off the agenda. This has brought with it very little intellectual gain: after all, the kind of amateur sociology that frequently stands in for criticism is scarcely more stringent than old-fashioned discussions of character. What we need now is not more cultural poetics, but a culturally informed poetics, which is something quite different. If the focus on Cambridge seems a bit parochial, it should be said that Williams’s influence was very extensive. But it is also important, certainly as far as rhetoric is concerned, to point out one significant difference between the development of English Studies in Britain and its development in the USA, which is that in the USA there are subdivisions or, in some cases, separate departments of rhetoric (or similar). These have never existed in Britain, nor is there any British equivalent of the Speech Association of America. This means that the historical relationship between rhetoric and modern English Studies is rather more visible in the USA, where Blair was very influential, than it

2 Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 149. 3 Williams, ‘Cambridge English, Past and Present’, in Writing in Society, 189. 4 Williams, ‘Beyond Cambridge English’, in Writing in Society, 215.



is in the UK.5 (Richards’s lectures on ‘The Philosophy of Rhetoric’ were actually delivered at Bryn Mawr, not Cambridge.) That relationship was illustrated in graphic form in the first issue of The Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking, later the Quarterly Journal of Speech, which reports on the first annual convention of the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking. This body gathered at the Congress Hotel, Chicago, ‘in the famous Florentine room’, while next door, at the Auditorium Hotel, the National Council of Teachers of English was assembled (one wonders if someone switched the bookings). The journal noted that ‘these two hotels are so joined that anyone can pass from one to the other without going out of doors’.6 Whether there was much congress between the two factions in either auditorium is not recorded, but the corridor remains open and offers an attractive invitation. Now, and in Britain especially, the space immediately adjacent to English is increasingly occupied by creative writing. There are several objections to conflating rhetoric with creative writing (the subjects are distinct in the USA), but the fundamental point is that they are both concerned with writing, or indeed speaking, as opposed to reading, which is the business of criticism. This was a distinction that Williams recognized, though he could hardly have been expected to anticipate the extraordinary growth of creative writing in higher education at the turn of the twentieth century. The most promising way in which Williams’s programme for English could be adapted for the present day is through a recombining of the active, performative arts of writing and speaking with the more passive, interpretative, and analytical arts of reading.7 Close reading, a study of the relationships between the different media of expression, and an awareness of their social and cultural contexts would remain common ground between them. Rhetoric may represent the origins of English, but it also offers a future for English. 5 And better documented: see Richard Ohmann, English in America: A Radical View of the Profession (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976); Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1987); Court, Institutionalizing English Literature. 6 The Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking, 1 (1915), 308. 7 One pioneering textbook in this respect is Rob Pope, The English Studies Book (London and New York: Routledge, 1998). From an American perspective see Robert Scholes, The Rise and Fall of English: Reconstructing English as a Discipline (New Haven Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998), which also argues for the reintegration of writing and reading. (The two books represent very different ideological positions, however.)



Williams’s reference to writers and readers ‘as active human beings’ can be understood in both Marxist and humanist terms. They are not mutually exclusive categories, here at least, and one bridge between them provided by the concept of sympathy, Shakespeare’s language of the heart. The present book began with some discussion of ‘life’, that Leavisite critical touchstone, which I wanted to place in some broader historical contexts. It would be unthinkable, now, to call for a return to Leavis. Our world has changed. But it is essential that English is able to demonstrate that it has an indispensable part to play within education and society if it is not to be crushed by the new utilitarianism. Here it might learn from humanism in its early modern form, where language study was seen as a preparation for the active life and for social engagement. This is not, of course, to recommend that the subject reinvents itself as a training ground for spin doctors—rather the reverse. It is true that the precursors of English had functional objectives, but the means by which these were to be achieved had a habit of subverting their original purpose. English is in many ways a study of that process, which is why its central focus should be on expression in the broadest possible way. The point now of invoking such terms as ‘the language of the heart’, or, even more sweepingly, ‘life’, is to argue for humane values capable of resisting the kind of dehumanizing tendencies represented by a utilitarian ethos that transforms people into exploitable resources. To that end we should promote the skills acquired from the practice of creative writing and the values acquired from the reading of it. And it is for that reason that the denial of literary value is the most dangerous and self-destructive of attitudes adopted by English academics. In all of this Shakespeare remains central. His work continues to inspire creative rewritings and remakings, internationally and in different media, which is why there has been so much recent academic activity in the field of reception study. The media themselves also help to determine what we mean by modern Shakespeare: a twenty-first century Hamlet might equally be represented by a printed scholarly edition of the first (orally reconstructed?) Quarto; the online Enfolded Hamlet; a production at the Globe theatre, reaffirming ‘presence’ and the primacy of speech; or the Almereyda film version, which moves in the opposite direction with its use of film within film and its ironic allusions to the action movie. At the same time, the revival of Shakespeare on screen from 1990 or thereabouts has meant that his plays have become more genuinely popular than they have been for decades,



giving a contemporary slant to Williams’s characterization of the Elizabethan theatre in terms of an ‘interaction between high art and literacy and an exceptionally developed oral culture’.8 And, to end more or less where we began, in all of this Hamlet, too, remains central, embodying the dilemmas of English: its hero divided between passive reading and active performance, between high art and popular culture, and brooding incessantly on the need to protect humane values, an inner core of being. We will never agree about what that play actually tells us, but there are few better examples of survival and renewal. 8

Williams, ‘Beyond Cambridge English’ in Writing in Society, 217.

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DAVIE, DONALD, Articulate Energy: An Inquiry into the Syntax of English Poetry (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955). DEMOLEN, RICHARD L., Richard Mulcaster (c.1531–1611) and Educational Reform in the Renaissance (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1991). DENT, R. W., Shakespeare’s Proverbial Language: An Index (Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1981). DERRIDA, JACQUES, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, Ma.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976). DESMET, CHRISTY, Reading Shakespeare’s Characters: Rhetoric, Ethics, and Identity (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992). DILLON, JANETTE, Language and Stage in Medieval and Renaissance England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). DOBSON, MICHAEL, The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660–1769 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992). DONAWERTH, JANE, Shakespeare and the Sixteenth-Century Study of Language (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1984). DONIGER, WENDY, The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade (Chicago, Ill. and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000). DONKER, MARJORIE, Shakespeare’s Proverbial Themes (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1992). DORAN, MADELEINE, Endeavors of Art: A Study of Form in Elizabethan Drama (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1954). DRAAISMA, DOUWE, Metaphors of Memory: A History of Ideas about the Mind, trans. Paul Vincent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). DUNCAN-JONES, KATHERINE, Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from his Life (London: Thomas Nelson, 2001). DURANT, ALAN, ‘Literacy and Literature: Priorities in English Studies Towards 2000’ in Barbara Korte and Klaus Peter Muller (eds.), Anglistiche Lehre Aktuell: Probleme, Perspektiven, Praxis, (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 1995), 37–59. ELIOT, T. S., The Sacred Wood (London: Faber, 1920; repr. 1997). ELLRODT, ROBERT, ‘Self-Consciousness in Montaigne and Shakespeare’, Shakespeare Survey, 28 (1975), 37–50. ELSKY, MARTIN, Authorizing Words: Speech, Writing, and Print in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1989). EMPSON, WILLIAM, Seven Types of Ambiguity (London: Chatto and Windus, 1961). FAIRWEATHER, JANET, Seneca the Elder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). FISHER, PHILIP, ‘Thinking about Killing: Hamlet and the Paths among the Passions’, in Susan Sontag (ed.), The Best American Essays, 1992, (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1992), 86–117.

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‘Forum: Literature, Aesthetics, and Canonicity in the Eighteenth Century’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 21/1, 21/3 (1997), 80–107, 79–99. FOX, ADAM, Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500–1700 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000). FRANCE, PETER, A Thing Called Rhetoric: Eloquence, Literature and Taste in Edinburgh 1583–1995 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Library, 1995). FRYE, ROLAND MUSHAT, The Renaissance Hamlet: Issues and Responses in 1600 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984). GARBER, MARJORIE, ‘Out of Joint’, in David Hillman and Carla Mazzio (eds.), The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe (London and New York, Routledge, 1997). GARNER, BRYAN A., ‘Shakespeare’s Latinate Neologisms’ and ‘Latin-Saxon Hybrids in Shakespeare and the Bible’, in Vivian Salmon and Edwina Burness (eds.), A Reader in the Language of Shakespearean Drama (Amsterdam and Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins, 1987), 207–28, 229–34. GILLESPIE, STUART, Shakespeare’s Books: A Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Sources (London and New Brunswick, NJ: Athlone, 2001). GILLIES, A., ‘Herder’s Essay on Shakespeare: “Das Herz der Untersuchung”’, Modern Language Review, 32 (1937), 262–80. GINZBURG, CARLO, ‘Selfhood as Otherness: Constructing English Identity in the Elizabethan Age’, in No Island Is an Island: Four Glances at English Literature in a World Perspective (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 25–42. GOLDBERG, JONATHAN, Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990). —— ‘Shakespearean Inscriptions: the Voicing of Power’, in Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman (eds.), Shakespeare and the Question of Theory (New York and London: Methuen, 1985). GRAFF, GERALD, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1987). GRAFTON, ANTHONY and JARDINE, LISA, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: Duckworth, 1986). GRANTLEY, DARRYL, Wit’s Pilgrimage: Theatre and the Social Impact of Education in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000). GRAZIA, MARGRETA DE, Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991). —— ‘Soliloquies and Wages in the Age of Emergent Consciousness’, Textual Practice, 9/1 (1995), 76–8. GREENBLATT, STEPHEN, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988). GREENE, THOMAs M., The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1982).


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GUILLORY, JOHN, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993). —— ‘Literary Capital: Gray’s “Elegy”, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and the Vernacular Canon’, in John Brewer and Susan Staves (eds.), Early Modern Conceptions of Property, (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 389–410. GURR, ANDREW, The Shakespearean Stage 1574–1642, 3rd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). GUTHRIE, WARREN, ‘The Elocution Movement—England’ in Joseph Schwartz and John A. Rycenga (eds.), The Province of Rhetoric (New York: Ronald Press, 1965), 255–75. GUY, JOHN, ‘Law, Equity and Conscience in Henrician Juristic Thought’ in Alistair Fox and John Guy (eds.), Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500–1550 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986). HADFIELD, ANDREW, Literature, Politics and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). —— Literature, Travel, and Colonial Writing in the English Renaissance 1545–1625 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998). HALL, EDITH, Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989). HALLORAN, S. MICHAEL, ‘Hugh Blair’s Use of Quintilian and the Transformation of Rhetoric in the Eighteenth Century’, in Winifred B. Horner and Michael Leff (eds.), Rhetoric and Pedagogy: Its History, Philosophy, and Practice (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1995), 183–95. HALPERN, RICHARD, The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1991). HAMLIN, WILLIAM H., ‘Scepticism in Shakespeare’s England’, The Shakespearean International Yearbook, 2 (2002), 290–304. HANS, NICHOLAS A., New Trends in Education in the Eighteenth Century (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951). HARDISON, O. B., ‘Blank Verse before Milton’, Studies in Philology, 81 (1984), 253–74. HARRISON, TONY, interview with Melvyn Bragg, ‘The South Bank Show’, ITV 1, 28 March 1999. —— Selected Poems, 2nd edn. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987). HAVELOCK, E. A., The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1986). HAWKES, TERENCE, ‘Shakespeare’s Talking Animals’, Shakespeare Survey, 24 (1971), 47–54. HEARD, RACHEL, ‘Shakespeare, Gender and the Rhetoric of Excuse’, Ph.D. thesis (University of St Andrews, 2003).

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HELGERSON, RICHARD, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992). HELMS, LORRAINE, ‘The Saint in the Brothel: Or, Eloquence Rewarded’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 41 (1990), 319–32. HIDDEN, NORMAN, ‘Thomas Hayward and The British Muse’, English, 37 (1988), 217–23. HÖLTGEN, KARL JOSEF, ‘Roland MacIlmaine and Early Ramist Influence in Britain’, in Hans Ulrich Seeber and Walter Göbel (eds.), Proceedings of the Conference of the German Association of University Teachers of English, xiv (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1993), 283–4. HONAN, PARK, Shakespeare: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). HORNER, WINIFRED BRYAN, and ALEY, SHELLEY, ‘George Campbell’, in Michael G. Moran (ed.), Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources, (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1994), 52–64. HOWELL, W. S., Eighteenth-Century British Logic and Rhetoric (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971). —— Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500–1700 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1961). HUDSON, NICHOLAS, Writing and European Thought, 1600–1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). —— ‘Theories of Language’, in H. B. Nisbet and Claude Rawson (eds.), The Cambridge History of English Literature, iv. The Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 335–48. HUGHES, TED, A Choice of Shakespeare’s Verse (London: Faber, 1991). —— Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (London: Faber & Faber, 1992). HUNTER, G. K., English Drama 1586–1642: The Age of Shakespeare (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997). HUNTER, LYNETTE, ‘Civic Rhetoric’, in Francis Ames-Lewis (ed.), Sir Thomas Gresham and Gresham College (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 88–105. HUTSON, LORNA, The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in Sixteenth-Century England (London and New York: Routledge, 1994). —— ‘The “Double Voice” of Renaissance Equity and the Literary Voices of Women’, in Danielle Clarke and Elizabeth Clarke (eds.), ‘This Double Voice’: Gendered Writing in Early Modern England (Basingstoke and New York: Macmillan, 2000), 142–63. —— ‘Ethopoeia, Source-Study and Legal History: A Post-Theoretical Approach to the Question of “Character” in Shakespearean Drama’ in Martin McQuillan et al (eds.), Post-Theory: New Directions in Criticism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 139–60. JARDINE, LISA, Erasmus, Man of Letters: The Construction of Charisma in Print (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).


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JAVITCH, DANIEL, Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978). JEANNERET, MICHEL, A Feast of Words: Banquets and Table Talk in the Renaissance, trans. Jeremy Whiteley and Emma Hughes (Cambridge: Polity, 1991). JONES, EMRYS, The Origins of Shakespeare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977). JONES, RICHARD FOSTER, The Triumph of the English Language (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University, 1953). JOSEPH, B. L., Elizabethan Acting (London: Oxford University Press, 1951). JOSIPOVICI, GABRIEL, On Trust: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1999). KELLIHER, HILTON, ‘Contemporary Manuscript Extracts from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1’, English Manuscript Studies, 1100–1700, 1 (1989), 144–81. KERMODE, FRANK, Shakespeare’s Language (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane, 2000). KERRIGAN, JOHN, ‘Between Michelangelo and Petrarch: Shakespeare’s Sonnets of Art’, in On Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature: Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). KEWES, PAULINA (ed.), Plagiarism in Early Modern England (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). KIERNAN, PAULINE, Shakespeare’s Theory of Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). KINNEY, ARTHUR F., Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986). KIRSCH, ARTHUR, ‘Montaigne and The Tempest’, in Gunnar Sorelius and Michael Srigley (eds.), Cultural Exchange between European Nations during the Renaissance (Uppsala: Uppsala University, 1994), 111–121. KLEIN, LAWRENCE E., Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness: Moral Discourse and Cultural Politics in Early Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). KLIGER, SAMUEL, The Goths in England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952). KNIGHTS, L. C., ‘The Ambiguity of Measure for Measure’, Scrutiny, 10 (1942), 222–33. KRAMNICK, JONATHAN BRODY, Making the English Canon: Print-Capitalism and the Cultural Past, 1700–1770 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). LANDOW, GEORGE P., Hypertext 2.0 (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997). LANHAM, RICHARD A., The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology and the Arts (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993). —— A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edn. (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1991).

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LEAVIS, F. R., Education and the University: A Sketch for an ‘English School’ (London: Chatto and Windus, 1943). —— ‘James as Critic’, in The Living Principle: English as a Discipline of Thought (London: Chatto and Windus, 1975). LEE, JOHN, Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and the Controversies of Self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). LYTE, H. Maxwell, A History of Eton College, 1440–1875 (London, 1875). MCCABE, RICHARD A., Incest, Drama and Nature’s Law 1500–1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). MCDONALD, CHARLES OSBOURNE, The Rhetoric of Tragedy: Form in Stuart Drama (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1966). MCDONALD, RUSS, Shakespeare and the Arts of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). —— ‘Reading The Tempest’, Shakespeare Survey, 43 (1990), 15–28. MCKENZIE, D. F., Making Meaning: “Printers of the Mind” and Other Essays, ed. Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez, SJ (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002). MCLAUGHLIN, MARTIN L., Literary Imitation in the Italian Renaissance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995). MACK, PETER, Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). —— Renaissance Argument: Valla and Agricola in the Traditions of Dialectic (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993). MAGUIRE, LAURIE E., Shakespearean Suspect Texts: The ‘Bad’ Quartos and their Contexts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). MANNING, SUSAN, Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2002). MARCUS, LEAH S., Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton (London and New York: Routledge, 1996). —— ‘The Silence of the Archive and the Noise of Cyberspace’, in Rhodes and Sawday (eds.), Renaissance Computer, 18–28. MARTINDALE, CHARLES and MARTINDALE, MICHELLE, Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity (London and New York: Routledge, 1990). MASLEN, R. W., Elizabethan Fictions: Espionage, Counter-Espionage, and the Duplicity of Fiction in Early Elizabethan Prose Narratives (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997). —— ‘Myths Exploited: The Metamorphoses of Ovid in Early Elizabethan England’ in A. B. Taylor (ed.), Shakespeare’s Ovid: The ‘Metamorphoses’ in the Plays and Poems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). MASON, ROGER, ‘The Scottish Reformation and the Origins of Anglo-British Imperialism’, in Roger Mason (ed.), Scots and Britons: Scottish Political Thought and the Union of 1603 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).


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MASSON, DAVID, ‘Shakespeare and Goethe’, in Essays Biographical and Critical (London: Macmillan, 1856). MAUS, KATHERINE EISAMAN, Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago, Ill., and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995). MAZZIO, CARLA, ‘Staging the Vernacular: Language and Nation in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy’, SEL 38 (1998), 207–32. ‘Medieval and Early Modern Miscellanies and Anthologies in Manuscript and Print’, Yearbook of English Studies, 33 (2003). MICHAEL, IAN, The Teaching of English: From the Sixteenth Century to 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). MILLER, THOMAS P., The Formation of College English: Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the British Cultural Provinces (Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997). MILLER, WILLIAM E., ‘Double Translation in English Humanistic Education’, in Studies in the Renaissance, 10 (1963), 163–74. MIOLA, ROBERT S., Shakespeare and Classical Tragedy: The Influence of Seneca (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992). MOSS, ANN, Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996). MUIR, KENNETH, ‘Shakespeare among the Commonplaces’, Review of English Studies, NS, 10 (1959), 283–9. MURPHY, ANDREW (ed.), The Renaissance Text: Theory, Editing, Textuality (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000). —— Shakespeare in Print (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003). MURPHY, JAMES J., Renaissance Rhetoric: A Short-Title Catalogue of Works on Rhetorical Theory from the Beginning of Printing to AD 1700 (New York: Garland, 1981). —— ‘Roman Writing Instruction as Described by Quintilian’ in James J. Murphy (ed.), A Short History of Writing Instruction (Davis, Calif.: Hermagoras, 1990), 19–76. NADEAU, RAY, ‘The Progymnasmata of Aphthonius’, Speech Monographs, 19 (1952), 264–85. NEILL, MICHAEL, ‘Broken English and Broken Irish: Nation, Language, and the Optic of Power in Shakespeare’s Histories’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 45 (1994), 1–32. NELSON, WILLIAM, ‘The Teaching of English in Tudor Grammar Schools’, Studies in Philology, 49 (1952), 119–43. NEVO, RUTH, Comic Transformations in Shakespeare (London and New York: Methuen, 1980). [Newbolt Report, The] The Teaching of English in England (London: HMSO, 1921). NORBROOK, DAVID, ‘Rhetoric, Ideology and the Elizabethan World Picture’ in Peter Mack (ed.), Renaissance Rhetoric (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994), 140–64.

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Index acting, styles of 39–40 actio 29, 37–9, 43, 186–8, 203 Adams, John Quincy 115 Agricola, Rudolph 91, 94–5, 152n. Aesop 51–2, 69 Aikin, John 209, 210n. Akenside, Mark 211–12 Allott, Robert 47, 155, 170–1, 179–80 Altman, Joel B. 90n., 116 anatomy 20–1 Andrewes, Lancelot 126n. anthology, metaphors for 155–6, 169 Aphthonius 91–2, 105n. Arbuthnot, John 213 Aretino, Leonardo Bruni 140 Aristotle 58, 69, 139, 193 Armstrong, Isobel 6 articulation 5–29, 49, 130, 150 and expression 2, 5–6, 13–22, 28, 30, 44, 185–8 Arundel, Earl of 118 Ascham, Roger 8, 15, 19, 29, 48–9, 63, 67, 74–5, 124–5, 131–2, 137, 163 Attridge, Derek 130–1 Aubrey, John 53n. Baldwin, T. W. 50–1, 175, 178, 182 Baldwin, William 22, 152 Barbauld, Anna 209–10 Barthes, Roland 7, 86, 97 Bate, Jonathan 52n., 88–9, 121, 134–5 Battenhouse, Roy 37 Baynes, Thomas Spencer 50–1 Beaumont, Francis 180 belles-lettres 3, 191, 195–208, 216 Blackwall, Anthony 180–2 Blair, Hugh 1, 23n., 115, 198–202, 204–8, 219, 221, 223, 228 Blake, William 6 blank verse 131–4, 223–4 Bodenham, John 155–6, 170–2, 175, 179–80 Bolgar, R. R. 59, 61 Borges, Jorge Luis 167–8 Bourdieu, Pierre 169

Boyer, Abel 187n. Bradshaw, Graham 88 Brathwait, Richard 43 Brinsley, John 23–4, 48–9, 63, 67, 74, 95, 147 Browne, Sir Thomas 13 Bryskett, Lodowyck 105 Burgh, James 185, 187 Burton, Robert 156 Bysshe, Edward 180 Cambridge, University of 24–5, 46–7, 70, 88, 113, 227–8 Camden, William 55, 118, 126–7 Campbell, George 222 Campion, Edmund 123 Campion, Thomas 133 canon, English literary 169–71 Carew, Richard 128–9 Castelvetro, Lodovico 69, 82, 139 Castiglione, Baldesar 43 Cavendish, Margaret 212 Caxton, William 22 Chapman, George 25, 125, 157 Chaucer, Geoffrey 16, 25, 123n., 124–5 Cicero 8, 11, 28–9, 50–3, 65, 73–4, 86, 92–3, 100, 114, 116, 145, 152, 158, 187, 192–3 Cinthio (Giraldi, Giovanni Battista) 60, 105 Clarke, John 154–5 Clayton, F. W. 165–8 coinage (and borrowing) 80–1, 127–9 Cole, Thomas 209 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 36–7, 168, 225–6 colours 96–8, 106–7 commonplace method 3, 12, 22–3, 35–6, 149–88 computing 1, 105n., 149–52, 156, 165–9 Condillac, Etienne Bonnot de 205n. Connor, Steven 11n. Conrad, Joseph 119–21, 143, 146 controversia 92–117 conversation 105, 198, 203



Cooper, Thomas 73–4, 151 Coote, Edmund 34 copia 56–7, 61n., 67–68, 75n., 99, 128, 153, 165, 167–9, 193 Corax of Syracuse 145 Corneille, Pierre 213, 216–17, 223 Cotgrave, John 179 Cox, Leonard 58–9 creative writing 1, 6, 45–84, 86, 173–5, 180–4, 197, 229–30 criticism 200, 206–7, 210, 221–6 and rhetoric 3, 5–6, 53–5, 67, 191–208, 222, 227–8 Crooke, Helkiah 20 cultural capital 67n., 169, 188 D’Alembert, Jean Le Rond 215 Daniel, Samuel 20, 127, 129, 133–4, 137–9, 144, 159, 195, 201 Davis, Alex 61n. declamation 52, 92–117 Dekker, Thomas 68, 99 Demosthenes 28 Dennis, John 212–13 De Quincey, Thomas 167n. Derrida, Jacques 13–15, 18, 32, 85–6, 204 Desmet, Christy 39n. Diderot, Denis 218 Digby, Sir Kenelm 8 Digges, Leonard 69 Diogenes Laertius 90 Dissoi Logoi 90 Dobson, Michael 176–7 Dodd, William 184–5 Dodsley, Robert 182–3, 211 Donne, John 11, 12, 41 Doran, Madeleine 12 double translation 62–4, 67 double voice 33, 64–6, 73, 100, 128, 133, 136 drama (in early modern education) 24–7, 52, 85, 94–8, 100–1, 115, 126, 211 Drummond, John 201 Drummond of Hawthornden, William 53 Dryden, John 172–3 Duclos, Charles Pinot 13–14 Duncan-Jones, Katherine 70 Edinburgh, University of 158, 197–201 foundation of Regius Chair 198–9, 220 ekphrasis 101

Elias, Norbert 129 Eliot, T. S. 133, 155 Elizabeth 1, Queen 48, 113 elocution 185–8, 201–3, 207, 224 A Help to Elocution and Eloquence 185–6 Elsky, Martin 21n., 55 Elstob, Elizabeth 202n. Elyot, Sir Thomas 17, 23 Empson, William 88–90, 105–6 enargeia 7, 32, 77, 222 Enfield, William 185, 187–8, 209, 212 English: in the dissenting academies 209–10 in the eighteenth-century university 199–208 in eighteenth-century educational theory 221–6 in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century education 23–4, 48–9, 55n., 62–8, 125–7, 147, 208–9 equity 98, 106–11 Erasmus 24, 53, 61, 73, 91, 94, 113, 175–6, 193, 209 and Shakespeare 56–9, 78–80 Adagia 10–11, 22, 56, 151, 158 Colloquia familiar (Familiar Colloquies) 51–2, 56 De Clementia 62 De Copia 52, 56–7, 66, 72, 75n., 78–9, 82–3, 95, 151, 153, 173 De Ratione studii (On the Method of Study) 56, 153 De Recta pronuntiatione (On the Right Way of Speaking Latin and Greek) 23, 123 Encomium matrimonii 57 Moriae Encomium (Praise of Folly) 20–1, 57, 83 ethopoeia 8, 100, 108, 111 Eton College 24–5, 172–3 Euripides 135–6, 158 Evans, John 179 expression 11–13, 181, 183, 193, 205–7, 228, 229 and articulation 2, 5–6, 13–22, 28, 30, 44, 185–8 as physical process 86, 172, 174–5 self-expression 5–6, 16, 29, 38, 43, 54 separated from invention 190 in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century education 45–68; see also Love’s Labour’s Lost

Index Field, Nathan 116 Fisher, Philip 43n., 159 Fletcher, John 116, 180 France, cultural relations with 3–4, 191, 193–7, 203–4, 213–21, 225 Franklin, Benjamin 224 Fraunce, Abraham 28 Gager, William 135 Garrick, David 224 Gesta Romanorum 101–2 Gildon, Charles 173, 177, 180–1 Glasgow, University of 198–200, 203, 213 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 185 Goldberg, Jonathan 107n. Googe, Barnaby 158 Gorboduc 132–3 Goths (and Gothic) 6, 135–42, 146–7 Grafton, Anthony 191, 195, 202 grammar 20–22, 44, 54–6, 196n. grammaticus 53–4 Greene, Robert 69–70 Gresham’s College 104–5 Greville, Fulke 25 Guillory, John 169 Guthrie, William 220–1 Hadfield, Andrew 138n. Hales, John 172–3 Hall, Edith 141 Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard 179 Halpern, Richard 79, 209 Harris, James 210 Harrison, Tony 49–50, 67, 83, 130 Harvey, Gabriel 8, 19, 30, 59, 71–5, 124, 194 Haterius, Q. 99–100, 101, 103 Havelock, Eric A. 42 Hawkins, William 210–11 Hayward, Thomas 180–1 Heaney, Seamus 121–2 hendiadys 64 Herbert, George 174 Herder, Johann Gottfried 185, 216, 225 Hewes, John 11 Heywood, Thomas 24–5, 39, 148, 187 Hitchin School 25–6 Hoby, Thomas 43 Holt, John 144 Homer 185, 189, 211 Hoole, Charles 175, 178 Horace 27, 52, 129, 189 Hoskyns, John 9n., 34, 82


Hudson, Nicholas 204 Hughes, Ted 64, 121–2 Hulme, T. E. 66 Hume, David 203, 222n. Hurd, Richard 183, 211 Hutson, Lorna 105n., 108n. imitation 59–68, 72–3, 75, 82–5, 173–6, 182–4, 208, 213 ingenium 73–4 inventio 68, 152–3, 154, 193, 195 Isocrates 139 Jardine, Lisa 95, 191, 195, 202 Javitch, Daniel 46 Jenkins, Harold 32 Johnson, Samuel 65, 139–40, 182, 184, 220 Jones, Emrys 37, 59, 157 Jonson, Ben 19, 37, 47, 52–3, 65, 71, 99–100 , 173 The Case is Altered 172 ‘Conversations with Drummond’ 53 Discoveries 12, 53, 61, 157, 176 Elegy on Shakespeare 171 English Grammar 15–16 Epicoene 153n. Poetaster 68, 93, 99 Sejanus 114 Jordan, Thomas 159n. kairos 139 Kames, Lord (Henry Home) 4, 198–201, 213, 216–17, 221–6, 227 Keats, John 49, 175 Kermode, Sir Frank 144 Kerrigan, John 80n. Kiernan, Pauline 29n., 40n. King, John 10 King’s School, Canterbury 23, 51–3 King’s School, Stratford-upon-Avon 48–9 Knox, Vicesimus 170 Kyd, Thomas 26–7, 70, 126 Kynaston, Sir Francis 123n. Lamb, Charles 21, 115 Lamy, Bernard 196, 200, 204, 221 Lanham, Richard A. 105n. La Primaudaye, Pierre de 17, 33–4, 75 Laurence Academy 224 Leavis, F. R. 6, 7, 230 Le Blanc, Jean Bernard 220



Lee, John 41 Leeds Grammar School 49–50 legislatio 101 Le Tourneur, Pierre 217–19 Ling, Nicholas 155, 161–4, 170, 175–6 Livy 102 Locke, John 64n., 208–10, 222n., 224 Lodge, Thomas 26–7, 130 logic 94–6, 52, 188, 193–4, 196n. sedes argumenti 186 Longinus 184 Lowe, Peter 18 Lucan 37, 132 Lucian 113 Lycothenes, Conrad 22, 71 Lyly, John 23 McCabe, Richard 103–4 McDonald, Russ 84, 144n. MacIlmaine, Roland 194–5, 199 Mack, Peter 56, 91–2 McKellen, Sir Ian 133n. McLuhan, H. Marshall 149 Malim, William 25 Mantuan 52 Marcus Tullius Cicero 17 Marlowe, Christopher 23, 51–2, 87, 109, 132 Marston, John 68, 99 Mary (Tudor), Queen 48 Mason, Roger 138n. Massinger, Philip 116, 179 Masson, David 13 Maus, Katharine Eisaman 109n. media studies 1, 29–31, 43–4, 228, 230–1 Melville, Andrew 194 memory 167–9, 192–3 memory theatre 151–2, 156 metaphors of 168–9 Menander 96n. Merchant Taylors School 23, 24, 26, 116, 126 Meres, Francis 37, 155, 170 metre 3, 130–4, 137–9, 145–6 Michael, Ian 175n., 187n. Milton, John 10n., 181–2, 201, 212 and Shakespeare 61n., 176 Montagu, Elizabeth 213, 218, 221, 223 Montaigne, Michel de 39n., 91, 143–4 Morgann, Maurice 217 Moryson, Fynes 122 Muir, Kenneth 168

Mulcaster, Richard 18, 20, 22–26, 28, 53–5, 79n., 85, 114–16, 125–30, 147, 172, 187, 195, 201 Munday, Anthony 102 Murphy, Andrew 177n. Nashe, Thomas 7, 31–2, 70–5, 80–1, 83, 100, 125, 127, 128, 131–2, 156–7 New Jersey, College of (Princeton University) 199 Nowottny, Winifred 112 Oldys, William 175, 180–1 Ong, Walter 149–50, 156, 164–5 Orgel, Stephen 144 Orpheus 27, 122, 129 Ovid 47–8, 52, 62–3, 120–2, 135, 143, 146, 168, 170 Oxford, University of 135–6, 171–2, 202n., 211 oxymoron 136, 141–2, 146, 181 Palfrey, Simon 145 Palingenius 62, 158, 161 paradiastole 107n. Parker, Patricia 76n., 104 Parnassus Plays 46–7, 70 The Passionate Pilgrim 171 passions and passion psychology 29, 43, 186–8, 205, 212–13, 218–19, 221–6 Peacham, Henry 140 Peele, George 70n., 135–7, 141 Petronius 94, 97 Pigman, George W., III 60n. plagiarism 68–70, 151 Plato 8 Platt, Peter 112 Plautus 170–1 Plutarch 9, 175 Poetarum flores 151, 155 Polyanthea 151, 154–6, 158–9, 161, 170, 176 Poole, Joshua 173–5, 176, 178, 180 Pope, Alexander: Dunciad IV 178, 181, 208 Edition of Shakespeare 173, 177–8, 182, 213 Pope, Rob 229n. Potkay, Adam 203 Prestwich, Edmund 159n. progymnasmata 90, 91–2, 99–100, 108 pronuntiatio 6, 23–5, 27–9, 43, 130, 186–8, 193, 203

Index prosopopoeia 8n., 96, 100, 120 Purchas, Samuel 142–3 Puttenham, George 7–8, 27, 58, 75, 129–30, 137–8, 146, 187 Quintilian 7–8, 11, 23–4, 27–9, 38–9, 52–7, 65, 73–4, 82–4, 92n., 93, 95–7, 100, 103–4, 152, 165, 187, 192–3, 220 Rabkin, Norman 88–9, 106 Racine, Jean 216–17 Radcliffe, Ralph 25 Rainolde, Richard 8, 20, 91 Rainolds, John 129 Rambuss, Richard 16n. Ramus (Pierre de la Ramée) 193–7, 199, 202, 209 Rankins, William 171 Rapin, René 196 Recorde, Richard 50 reproduction 67, 76, 80–1 rhetoric 2–3, 20–2, 115, 227–31 and composition 53–68 and criticism 3, 5–6, 53–5, 67, 191–208, 222, 227–8 and declamation 88–117 and the passions 29, 43, 186–8, 205, 212n., 222–5 and speech writing 85–7 rhyme 131–4, 137–9, 144, 145–6 Richards, I. A. 227, 229 Richards, Jennifer 105n. Richardson, William 213, 220 Ricks, Christopher 153 Robinson, Robert 9–12, 22 Rollin, Charles 196–8, 206 Ross, Ian Simpson 225–6 Rossiter, A. P. 88 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 1, 13–15, 204, 224 Rowe, Nicholas 144, 173, 177 Ryan, Kiernan 87 Rymer, Thomas 65 St Andrews, University of 50, 194, 197–200, 210 Schlegel, August Wilhelm von 37 Scholes, Robert 229n. Schwarzenegger, Arnold 38n. Scotland 3–4, 190–1, 194–208, 209–10, 216 Sedley, Sir Charles 58, 65 Seneca (the Elder) 92–7, 99–100, 102, 114


Seneca (the Younger) 11, 36, 60–1, 65–6, 94, 155, 170 Sextus Empiricus 90–1 Shakespeare, John 59 Shakespeare, William: anthologization of 171–88, 212 Hugh Blair on 206–8 and declamation 98–117 and Erasmus 56–9, 78–80 French reception of see Voltaire German reception of 216n., 225–6 Lord Kames on 223–6, 227 in Latin 210–11 and Nashe 70–5, 80–1, 83 and Quintilian 53, 64–6, 82–4 and Quintus Haterius 99–100 and sixteenth-century education 2–3, 24–5, 27, 45–68, 82–4, 156–7 in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century education 174–5, 178–9, 182, 185–8, 200, 210–13, 223–6 and Voltaire 214–20, 223 All’s Well That Ends Well 13, 64 Antony and Cleopatra 62, 79, 99 As You Like It 154, 160–1 Coriolanus 112–13 Cymbeline 160 Hamlet 2, 7, 21, 29–44, 64, 69–70, 75–6, 91, 93, 101, 157–60, 162, 164, 187, 214–15, 219, 223, 230–1 I Henry IV 223 Henry V 53, 65, 89 1 Henry VI 8, 31–2, 70, 100 3 Henry VI 70 Julius Caesar 181n., 186 King Lear 34, 95, 160 Love’s Labour’s Lost 3, 52, 75–84, 86–7, 97, 99, 109, 163, 171 Macbeth 6n., 65–6, 132, 154, 164–5, 174, 184 Measure for Measure 3, 11, 88–9, 103, 105–10 The Merchant of Venice 62, 101, 109–12, 154, 171, 179, 223 A Midsummer Night’s Dream 109, 166–7 Much Ado About Nothing 19, 163 Othello 184, 186 Pericles 101, 103 The Rape of Lucrece 7, 171 Richard II 7, 171 Richard III 133, 171 Romeo and Juliet 171



Shakespeare, William (cont.): Sonnets 57, 80, 101, 164–5, 171 The Tempest 3, 62, 142–8 Titus Andronicus 3, 111, 133, 134–42, 147 Twelfth Night 13, 57 Venus and Adonis 121, 171 The Winter’s Tale 8, 50 Shaw, Bernard 185 Sheridan, Thomas 138n., 178, 185, 201–4, 217 Sherry, Richard 130 Shrank, Catherine 124n. Shrewsbury School 25 Sidney, Sir Philip 8, 25, 27 Silvayn, Alexander (pseud.) 102–13, 179 Skinner, Quentin 107n., 113 Smith, Adam 1, 198–200, 203–5, 209, 219, 222n. Smith, Bruce R. 9n. speech 22–9, 85–7, 184–8, 203–6, 223–4 as life 6–11, 21, 30, 77, 101, 185, 211 see also articulation; elocution; pronuntiatio speech-act theory 32–3 Spender, Stephen 50 Spenser, Edmund 8, 19, 124, 126, 163n., 181 Stafford, Fiona 206n. Stanyhurst, Richard 19 Steevens, George 37 Sterne, Laurence 189 Stevenson, John 198–9 Stewart, Dugald 1, 204 Strachey, William 142 suasoria 92–4, 101, 108 sublime 181–4, 186, 203, 212, 214 Suckling, Sir John 159n., 173 Surrey, Henry Howard, Earl of 131–2 Sutherland, Kathryn 6 sympathy 221–6, 230 table-book 153, 156–7 Tacitus 93–4, 97, 103, 113, 223 taste (and politeness) 197–198, 203–8, 211–12, 214, 216n., 219–21 Tate, Nahum 173 Terence 24, 26, 51–2, 74–5, 105n. Terry, Richard 170n., 196n., 212n. Textor, Ravisius 149, 164–5, 174

Thesaurus Dramaticus 180–1 Thesaurus Poeticus 174 thesis 91, 93, 101, 158 Thomas, Sir Keith 41 Thorne, Alison 88n. Topsell, Edward 19 Tottel’s Miscellany 124 Turing, Alan 166 Udall, Nicholas 24–5, 26 Uppingham School 55 Ur-Hamlet 26–7, 31, 36, 38, 70 Valerius Maximus 102 Valla, Lorenzo 170 Vaughan, William 105, 169 Verstegan, Richard 127 Vickers, Brian 48n., 57, 136, 194 Virgil 63, 131, 181 Vives, Juan Luis 48, 62–3, 67, 95 Voltaire 214–20, 223 Warburton, William 36, 144 Warnick, Barbara 196n. Warrington Academy 209–10 Watson, Robert 198–200, 210 Webbe, William 9, 27, 55, 132, 137 Webster, John 157, 161–2 Westminster School 52, 208 Whitelock, Sir James 24, 26 Whitman, Walt 5n. Wieland, Christoph Martin 216n. Williams, David 224 Williams, Raymond 190, 227–31 Wilson, Thomas 124 Witherspoon, John 199 women: and education 162–3; see also Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost and English 202–4, 209–10 reading Shakespeare 212n., 218 and rhetoric 103–9, 116, 192–3, 202–4 Wordsworth, William 21, 225 Wrednot, William 179 Wright, George T. 64, 132n. Wright, Thomas 15–16, 17, 28–9, 38 Yates, Frances 151, 152n. Yeats, W. B. 158 Young, Edward 183, 184

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Where can I read William Shakespeare books for free? ›

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Where can I download Shakespeare? ›

The eBooks from EBSCOhost and Springer Link can be downloaded and viewed on computers and a variety of eReaders including tablets, Kindles, Nooks, and many more devices.

What did Harold Bloom say about Shakespeare? ›

According to Bloom, Shakespeare-especially in his creation of Falstaff and Hamlet-so utterly altered human consciousness that after him the world was a different place and we were different creatures. In other words, Shakespeare re-created humanity.

Is Shakespeare the father of English? ›

William Shakespeare is considered by many to be the father of modern English Literature. It is not just his popularity and influence on modern writers that allows for this title to be attributed to him but because of the massive contributions he made to the development of the English language.

What is the best Shakespeare book to start with? ›

We've chosen these five plays because they are easy to follow, frequently performed, and they happen to be some of Shakespeare's most famous works.
  • Romeo & Juliet.
  • Julius Caesar.
  • Much Ado About Nothing.
  • Macbeth.
  • Twelfth Night.
Apr 13, 2023

What is the best way to read Shakespeare? ›

How to read Shakespeare for pleasure
  1. Ignore the footnotes. If your edition has footnotes, pay no attention to them. ...
  2. Pay attention to the shape of the lines. The layout of speeches on the page is like a kind of musical notation or choreography. ...
  3. Read small sections. ...
  4. Think like a director. ...
  5. Don't worry.
Apr 21, 2020

Is there an order to read Shakespeare? ›

Many are proponents of reading Shakespeare's plays in chronological order. Not a bad way to read the Bard. You'll get to see his progression as a writer. He started writing around 1590 and ended around 1612, and his most revered plays definitely fall in the later middle of that period.

Who was Shakespeare's wife? ›

Who was Shakespeare's Wife? William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in November 1582 and they remained married until Shakespeare's death. At the time of their marriage William was 18, while Anne was 26—and pregnant with their first child.

How many versions of Shakespeare are there? ›

The Guinness Book of Records lists 410 feature-length film and TV versions of William Shakespeare's plays, making Shakespeare the most filmed author ever in any language.

What is the most iconic Shakespeare quote? ›

One of the most famous Shakespeare quotes of all time, the sentence “To be or not to be: that is the question” originates from the play, Hamlet.

What did Charlie Chaplin say about Shakespeare? ›

Charlie Chaplin

“In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare… Whoever wrote [Shakespeare] had an aristocratic attitude.”

What did Charles Dickens say about Shakespeare? ›

For Dickens Shakespeare was “the great master who knew everything,” whose plays were “an unspeakable source of delight.”1 It has been well said that “No one is better qualified to recognise literary genius than a literary genius,”2 and no other author has had so profound an effect on Dickens.

What was Shakespeare's cause of death? ›

Shakespeare's death is a mystery. It's been speculated that he died of syphilis or was even murdered. Helen explores the theory that comes from a diary written by a Stratford Vicar 50 years after Shakespeare's death.

How much of English did Shakespeare invent? ›

He contributed 1,700 words to the English language because he was the first author to write them down.

What are 5 interesting facts about Shakespeare? ›

11 surprising facts about William Shakespeare
  • His dad was a beer taster and a glove maker. Shakesbeer: William's dad was a part-time beer taster. ...
  • He couldn't spell. ...
  • He married young. ...
  • He tried to be an actor first. ...
  • He was very productive! ...
  • He survived a pandemic. ...
  • He gave us some well-known phrases... ...
  • 8. …

Is there a way to read any book for free? ›

Project Gutenberg

You can even read free books online without downloading and free books online for kids! The project was started in 1971 in an effort to digitally archive books in the public domain. This is a great website to frequent if you love classic titles by authors such as Dickens, Shakespeare, and more!

Are Shakespeare plays public domain? ›

Thus, the works of William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jack London and other classic writers are in the public domain and may be published by anyone without payment of a royalty.

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