Chapter 14

“William Shakes-speare”
Man of the Renaissance
by Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn

Chapter Fourteen


GABRIEL HARVEY met the Court at Audley End to welcome the Queen and her entourage with heroic Latin verses which he had composed for the occasion.

Addressing the premier Earl, Edward de Vere, Lord Oxford, Harvey began:

This is my welcome; this is how I have decided to bid All Hail! to thee and to the other Nobles.

Thy splendid fame, great Earl, demands even more than in the case of others the services of a poet possessing lofty eloquence. Thy merit doth not creep along the ground, nor can it be confined within the limits of a song. It is a wonder which reaches as far as the heavenly orbs.

Fulsome praise was to be expected, but it is noteworthy that Harvey honored him far above the rest. The Earl’s imperious spirit was glanced at as he proceeded, in words that were prophetic:

O thou great-hearted one, strong in thy mind and thy fiery will, thou wilt conquer thyself, thou wilt conquer others; thy glory will spread out in all directions beyond the Arctic Ocean; and England will put thee to the test and prove thee to be a native-born Achilles. Do thou go forward boldly and without hesitation. Mars will obey thee, Hermes will be thy messenger, Pallas striking her shield with her spear-shaft will attend thee.

We shall break in here to quote from Edwin Reed’s Prefatory Address to the Folio: “In Grecian mythology,” he writes, “Pallas Athena was the goddess of wisdom, philosophy, poetry, and the fine arts. Her original name simply Pallas … from pallein, signifying to brandish or shake. Athens, the home of the drama, was under the protection of this spear-shaker.” (1) It may be added that the helmet she wore was supposed to convey invisibility.

To the young Elizabethan who had been acclaimed the champion spear-shaker of the lists, whose crest, as Lord Bolebec, was a Lion shaking a broken Spear, and who was himself a dramatist and patron of writers, these facts of which Harvey was reminding him would have had considerable relevance and interest.

For a long time past [the speaker went on] Phoebus Apollo has cultivated thy mind in the arts. English poetical measures have been sung by thee long enough. Let that Courtly Epistle—more polished than the writings of Castiglione himself (2)—Witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters. I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant; thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses in France and Italy, but hast learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries.

The reference to Phoebus Apollo is arresting, because Harvey’s expression “drunk deep draughts, . . . of the Muses” suggests the couplet from Ovid which prefaces Venus and Adonis and which Jonson translated:

Kneel hinds to trash—me let bright Phoebus swell
With cups full flowing from the Muses’ well.

Further, it is interesting to have testimony of Oxford’s prolific writing, so much of which has been lost or perhaps, by him, destroyed.

The Earl had known Gabriel Harvey during his student days at Cambridge, where, “in the prime of his gallantest youth,” as Harvey once said, “he bestowed Angels [i.e., gold coins] upon me in Christ’s College . . . and otherwise vouchsafed me many gracious favours.”

The oration continued:

It was not for nothing that Sturmius himself was visited by thee; neither in France, Italy nor Germany are any such cultivated and polished men. O thou hero worthy of renown, throw away the insignificant pen, throw away bloodless books, and writings that serve no useful purpose; now must the sword be brought into play, now is the time for thee to sharpen the spear and to handle great engines of war. On all sides men are talking of camps and of deadly weapons; war and the Furies are everywhere, and Bellona reigns supreme.

The pedant spoke truly. As Ward put it, “The Spanish menace had begun in earnest. Protestantism in England was standing on the threshold of the great struggle that lasted to the end of Elizabeth’s reign.” It is to Spanish “Furies,” as well as classical, that the speaker alludes. While Harvey considered it an estimable thing for a nobleman to engage in literary work as a pleasant avocation, even he deplored too exclusive a concentration upon the arts and exhorted the Earl to remember his traditional duties.

No one would have been in more perfect agreement with him than Edward de Vere himself. (3) But the Queen was an interested auditor too. Who can say that she may not at this moment have conceived a plan which she was later effectively to execute?—to have her brilliant poet-dramatist shake his spear in more potent fashion than on the field of battle? However, at this very time he was begging for leave to fight in Flanders.

Now may all martial influence support thy eager mind [declaimed Harvey] driving out the cares of Peace. Pull Hannibal up short at the gates of Britain. Defended though he be by a mighty host, let Don John of Austria come on only to be driven home again. Fate is unknown to man, nor are the counsels of the Thunderer fully determined. And what if suddenly the most powerful enemy should invade our borders? If the Turk should be arming his savage hosts against us? What though the terrible war-trumpet is even now sounding its blast? Thou wilt see it all; even at this very moment thou art fiercely longing for the fray. I feel it. Our whole country knows it. In thy breast is noble blood. Courage animates thy brow, Mars lives in thy tongue, Minerva strengthens thy right hand, Bellona reigns in thy body, within thee burns the fire of Mars. Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear; who would not swear that Achilles had come to life again? (4)

These words cannot but thrill with pride those who know to whom they were addressed. Harvey’s oration may have been somewhat florid, but it was fervent and it was sincere. Moreover, it gave honor to him to whom honor was due. And that is more than any Englishman was to do again, save with the extremest caution, for three hundred and forty-two years.

A point here, the importance of which cannot be overestimated, is the fact that Cymbeline, which would be presented at court before this year was over, has a long passage—Posthumus’s dream (V.4.30-122) —which shows his parents and his noble brothers—the Leonati, who correspond to the Veres—returning to intercede for him with “the Thunderer” to restore him to his rights. It is no mere coincidence that the dramatist writes of “the Thunderer” so soon after Harvey’s reference to him in the last paragraph of his address to Edward de Vere.

Jupiter himself speaks of “the thunderer” (94-102) when he says:

No care of yours it is; you know ’tis ours.
Whom best I love I cross; to make my gift
The more delay’d, delighted.

This scene alone, especially taken together with the passages in Titus Andronicus about the warlike and valiant Andronici, who also represent the noble Veres, offers a persuasive argument that Edward de Vere wrote these two plays in his young manhood. It is only in his early dramas that he celebrates his own ancestry.

In the dream, where Posthumus sees his great father, Sicilius Leonatus (in The Winter’s Tale, Leontes, King of Sicilia, will stand for Lord Oxford), the dramatist reveals his identity unmistakably.

Posthumus’ opening speech (V.4) has these lines (8-11):

My conscience, thou art fetter’d
More than my shanks and wrists: you good gods, give me
The penitent instrument to pick that bolt;
Then, free for ever!

All this scene shows the influence of classical drama, apparent in the poet’s work before he had developed his own mode. At this time Oxford’s “conscience” was indeed “fetter’d,” partly by his powerlessness to follow the Vere tradition and fight for his country, partly by his abandonment of his wife, who is to some extent represented by Imogen.

Two of the foreign dignitaries accompanying the Queen on this progress were de Bacqueville and de Quincy, Alenςon’s envoys sent to negotiate the marriage. They had joined the court at Long Melford. Another was the new Spanish Ambassador, Bernardino de Mendoza, and he gave an interesting report of events to King Philip.

The Queen [he wrote] has greatly feasted Alençon’s Ambassador, and on one occasion when she was entertaining him at dinner she, thought the sideboard was not so well furnished with pieces of plate as she would have liked the Frenchmen to have seen it; she therefore called the Earl of Sussex the Lord Steward, who has charge of these things, and asked him how it was there was so little plate. The Earl replied that he had, for many years, accompanied her and other Sovereigns of England in their Progresses, and he had never seen them take so much plate as she was carrying then. The Queen told him to hold his tongue, that he was a great rogue, and that the more good that was done to people like him the worse they got.

This behavior was characteristic of Elizabeth in her obstreperous moods: she was at times hard and faithless, turning against her most devoted ministers and servants to berate them sharply, never failing to remind them that they owed everything to her bounty. Sussex had been undeviatingly loyal and considerate, and she knew it, but that was of no consequence when she wished to use him as a scapegoat. He was Oxford’s staunch friend and Leicester’s inveterate enemy: the two elder men were always ranged upon opposite sides. At this time Sussex, a Catholic, approved the Alençon marriage, while Leicester, as head of the Puritan party, bitterly opposed it, for politic as well as personal reasons. All this being the case, it was unfortunate that Leicester was brought into the altercation Mendoza describes. But he was and he acted true to type, as the letter goes on to relate:

She [the Queen] then turned to a certain North, who was there in the room and asked him whether he thought there was much or little plate on the sideboard, to which he replied there was very little and threw the blame on Sussex. When North left the Queen’s Chamber Sussex told him he had spoken wrongly and falsely in what he said to the Queen; whereupon North replied that if he [Sussex] did not belong to the Council he would prove what he said to his teeth. Sussex went to Leicester and complained of the knavish behavior of North, but Leicester told him the words he used should not be applied to such persons as North. Sussex answered that whatever he might think of the words, North was a great knave; so that they remained offended with one another as they had been before on other matters. . . . the next day the Queen sent twice to tell the Earl of Oxford, who is a very gallant lad, to dance before the Ambassadors; whereupon he replied that he hoped Her Majesty would not order him to do so, as he did not wish to entertain Frenchmen. When the Lord Steward took him the message the second time he replied that he would not give pleasure to Frenchmen, nor listen to such a message, and with that he left the room. He is a lad who has a great following in the country. (5)

Since the “Lord Steward,” through whom these messages were sent, was Sussex himself, the Queen would not have failed to get the point.

The young Earl must have been very sure of his position to dare thus to stand up to the Queen. Although later he favored the Alençon marriage—or at least supported Elizabeth in her pretended enthusiasm for it—he had not yet come round; quite the contrary. However, it was not necessarily the Frenchmen he objected to obliging, but Elizabeth herself, after her outrageous treatment of Sussex, his friend, whom he loved. He undoubtedly believed Leicester had been influencing her against Sussex, and this infuriated him further against Leicester whom he considered a peacock—and his rival band of courtiers.

It was at this time that Oxford wrote the drama first entitled An history of the crueltie of a Stepmother, in which a wicked queen endeavors to contrive a match between her stupid, villainous son and the daughter of a king of ancient Britain, whose stepmother she is, hoping to advance her cause of making her son King of Britain by the judicious use of poisonous herbs and compounds. The prototype of this wicked Queen was, as we have said before, Catherine de’ Medici who, while practicing occultism and astrology, was supposed to have poisoned more than one person whom she wished out of the way.

In this play which, incidentally, was given by Sussex’s company of actors “at Richmond on Innocentes daie at night,” December 28, 1578, Lord Oxford followed his custom of dramatizing certain circumstances of his own life—here his relationship with Elizabeth and also that of the chaste wife wronged by her jealous husband—together with events of topical interest. Holinshed’s Chronicles, published early in this same year, had given an account of Cymbeline and his two sons; and to his own adaptation of this, Oxford added several features of Boccaccio’s story of an attempt on the virtue of a chaste wife.

The scene of the drama, Colchester, was very near his own estate, Wivenhoe, at the mouth of the Colne river, where it flows into the North Sea. An ancient town, once the fortified capital of Cymbeline, Colchester is now the largest city in Essex. “Cambria at Milford Haven” is—according to Mrs. Clark—a disguise for Cambridge, where the 1578 progress made its first important stop, and for Long Melford, near which stands the hero’s residence (and Oxford’s Castle Hedingham). Long Melford was the place where the Queen received Alençon’s envoys while on her Cambridge progress. (6)

Catherine de’ Medici was the real ruler of France during this time. While careful to make no overt move against Philip of Spain, she would have strengthened her own position appreciably by arranging a marriage between her son, Alençon (whom, by the way, Motley described as a “despicable personage”) and Queen Elizabeth.

The English Queen had been for some time in a precarious position. Philip, unable yet to wage war against her, steadily contrived subversive activities in every way he could. “The Irish malcontents were encouraged with the aid of Papal money; and Catholic plots with Spanish and Guisan aid, for the rescue of Mary Stuart, the assassination of Elizabeth, and the like, kept the English Court in alarm,” augmented by “Philip’s many paid agents and friends in Elizabeth’s counsels.” The Catholics were casting about “for another prince with a greater following than Mathias,” who would be a good Catholic and, at the same time acceptable to the Protestant William of Orange and his following. (7)

France was in an unquiet state, with Huguenots and malcontents fleeing to the Flemish frontier; and Catherine was deeply disturbed. She knew that her son, Alençon, who had escaped from the Louvre where he had been a prisoner, would willingly make trouble between France and Spain by espousing the cause of the malcontents in Flanders. Henry III assured Mendoza that his brother, Alençon, would do nothing against the interests of Spain; but no one believed that, and everyone knew that if Alençon led a French force against the Spanish, England also would become involved. It was a crucial situation which demanded careful measures.

Mendoza wrote Philip in 1578, soon after his arrival in England:

I have found the Queen much opposed to your Majesty’s interests, and most of her ministers are quite alienated from us…. The bulk of the business (here) really depends upon the, Queen, Leicester, Walsingham, and Cecil.

And these men, he knew, were staunch Protestants, Leicester and Walsingham. “being much wedded to the States [i.e., the Netherlands] and extremely self-seeking.”

But after Alençon’s envoys had made his proposal of marriage to Elizabeth, assuring her of his complete dependence upon her, she became even more wary, encouraging Mendoza to believe that she was now “turning her eyes” in greater friendliness toward Philip, while her ministers sedulously cultivated Mendoza.

It was because of this temporary policy that Lord Oxford was able to portray Catherine de’ Medici and her son Alençon as the stepmother Queen and her son Cloten, in so adverse a light. It has been said that Elizabeth permitted her Turk immense latitude in the plays; but in this one he was serving her political interests quite as effectively as he could have served them on the field of battle, so perhaps he was content.

At the same time, he was serving his own too, for he abhorred the Alençon match for personal as well as public reasons. He himself is Posthumus and Elizabeth partially Imogen. This was the time of Oxford’s highest favor with the Queen, and there was reason for him to believe she might make him her consort. (8) Therefore Posthumus’s banishment by Cymbeline, although he is married to Imogen, is Oxford’s situation of having to give up his hope of having a recognized union with Elizabeth, because England (Cymbeline) and Catherine de’ Medici (the Queen) wish to marry her to Alençon (Cloten). To his description of Posthumus’s noble ancestry and intellectual gifts (I.1.28 et seq.), which is in the main a description of Oxford’s (especially 43-54), the First Gentleman adds:

… to his mistress,
For whom he now is banish’d, her own price
Proclaims how she esteem’d him and his virtue;
By her election may be truly read
What kind of man he is.

Oxford was writing this for—and at—the Queen: a practice from which he never wavered. She did esteem “him and his virtue.”

Posthumus. My queen, my mistress!
O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
To be suspected of more tenderness
Than doth become a man. I will remain
The loyal’st husband that did e’er plight troth. (I.1.92-6.)

When Pisanio describes Posthumus’s departure to Imogen (I.3.1 et seq.) she asks what was the last word he spoke.

Pisanio. It was his queen, his queen!

The stressing of the word “queen,” when Imogen was not a queen, is significant. Posthumus’s reluctant leave-taking is Oxford’s own. But lachimo states the case realistically when he says (I.4.14-23):

This matter of his marrying the king’s daughter—wherein he must be weighed rather by her value than his own—words him … a great deal from the matter . . . and the approbation of those that weep this lamentable divorce under her colours are wonderfully to extend him; be it but to fortify her judgment, which else an easy battery might lay flat, for taking a beggar without less quality.

That is, Oxford had friends (Sussex one, no doubt) who approved and took his part, though he was no longer rich and not of royal blood. (Actually Oxford’s ancestry was nobler than Elizabeth’s; still, she always made a point of saying she could not marry one of her subjects, but only a prince of the blood royal.) If she were subjected to a “battery” of criticism, she would be confounded, “laid flat.”

When Posthumus joins the company, he introduces himself, thanking them

for courtesies, which I will be ever to pay. By your pardon, sir, I was then a young traveller. . . . (I.4.37-46.)

And the Queen—Imogen’s stepmother—says of Posthumus (I.5.52-60):

His fortunes all lie speechless, and his name
Is at last gasp …
Who cannot be new built, nor has no friends
So much as but to prop him….

Oxford knew how seriously his reputation had suffered through his split with the powerful Burghley. He was now stating the adverse side of his case. Like Timon, he had lost friends when his fortunes had dwindled; he had lost those among the Howard faction when Elizabeth had granted him the Manor of Rysing and also—which is much more important—when he had written Titus Andronicus in protest against the Catholic plotters. He still had Sussex and others who did what they could “to extend him,” but he knew what his enemies were saying, and characteristically he states it with candor.

But he warns Elizabeth what she may expect from Catherine de’ Medici, if she becomes her daughter-in-law, first in I.5, and again in the speech of the Second Lord (II.1.53-66):

That such a crafty devil as his mother
Should yield the world this ass! a woman that
Bears all down with her brain, and this her son
Cannot take two from twenty for his heart
And leave eighteen. Alas! poor princess,
Thou divine Imogen, what thou endur’st
Betwixt a father and thy step-dame govern’d
A mother hourly coining plots, a wooer
More hateful than the foul expulsion is
Of thy dear husband, than the horrid act
Of the divorce he’d make. The heavens hold firm
The walls of thy dear honour; keep unshak’d
That temple, thy fair mind; that thou mayst stand
To enjoy thy banish’d lord and this great land!

This is the Earl’s plea against Elizabeth’s degrading herself by marriage to the illiterate Alençon, who even had to have his subsequent love-letters to her written by his secretaries. Once he added a scrawled postscript in his childish French: “Madame, je vous supli mescuser si sete letre nest tout escripte de ma min, et croies que nay peu faire autrement.” (9)

Imogen, in her character of Elizabeth, is described (I.6.17) as being alone the Arabian bird”: that is, the phoenix. The appellation will be given the Queen again, as Cleopatra and elsewhere, and by other poets than Oxford.

Before leaving Cloten-Alençon we should like to suggest that the passage between him and the two Lords (I.2) probably has reference to some of the courtiers, it may be of the Leicester faction, and was inserted by Oxford because of the incident about the plate. He would hardly have known that Alençon was odoriferous—although it is possible that he had smelled him while at the French court! He certainly stresses his foulness. There are of course many barbs aimed at contemporaries for which we now have no clue.

So much for the French allusions. As for the Spanish, Caius Lucius represents Mendoza, the Ambassador from Augustus, who is Philip of Spain. We cannot go into this very fully—indeed, every play requires several chapters for an adequate analysis—but a few points must be made.

Philario says to Posthumus (II.4.10 et seq.):

          By this your king
Hath heard of great Augustus; Caius Lucius
Will do ‘s commission thoroughly, and I think
He’ll grant the tribute, send the arrearages,
Or look upon our Romans, whose remembrance
Is yet fresh in their grief.

the “Romans” are the Catholics headed by Philip.

Posthumus. I do believe
Statist though I am none, nor like to be
That this will prove a war; and you shall hear
The legions now in Gallia sooner landed
In our not-fearing Britain than have tidings
Of any penny tribute paid.

Though he held no political office, Oxford knew what was going on. Gallia represents the Low Countries, where Don John, Philip’s halfbrother, was in command of an army, which might, at any time, invade England. Gabriel Harvey had said in his oration at Cambridge in July:

Pull Hannibal up short at the gates of Britain. Defended though he be by a mighty host, let Don John of Austria come on only to be driven home again.

This fear was in the heart of every informed Englishman at that time. (10)

Cymbeline stands for Elizabeth as the English monarch when greeted by Lucius (III.1.62-9):

Lucius. I am sorry, Cymbeline,
That I am to pronounce Augustus Caesar—
Caesar that hath more kings his servants than
Thyself domestic officers—thine enemy.
Receive it from me, then: war and confusion
In Caesar’s name pronounce I ‘gainst thee: look
For fury not to be resisted. Thus defied,
I thank thee for myself.

Philip had under his sovereignty at this time, besides Spain, the Netherlands, Naples, Sicily, Milan, and a large part of South America. A year later he had Portugal. The word “fury” is of course used with intent, recalling the Spanish Fury of November 1576, as Harvey had spoken of the “Furies.” The English nation had been horrified by the massacre.

Cymbeline is speaking in the person of the contemporary ruler of England, Elizabeth, when he says:

Thy Caesar knighted me; my youth I spent
Much under him; of him I gather’d honour;
Which he, to seek of me again, perforce,
Behoves me keep at utterance. (70-3.)

This clearly refers to Philip’s kindness to the young Elizabeth while he was married to Mary: he had made her lot somewhat easier; later he sued for her hand in marriage, but Elizabeth and her ministers were always too clever for “the lonely figure in the Escorial.”

Afterward Cymbeline remarks (III.5.21-2):

Lucius hath wrote already to the emperor
How it goes here;

which is indeed what Mendoza had done.

In the passage (V.3.52 et seq.) where Posthumus makes extempore rhymes with a Lord—as Oxford himself must frequently have done he speaks of

Two boys, an old man twice a boy, a lane,
Preserv’d the Britons, was the Romans’ bane;

his secondary meaning concerns his own subsequent stand against Catholic conspiracy. But it is obvious that all the part about Belarius and the two boys, Cymbeline’s sons, belongs to a later revision (III.3, most of IV-2, and IV.4.) In the first version the dramatist got the boys of the chronicle out of the way, in order to stress the story concerning Elizabeth and the proposed French match. She had told Alençon’s emissary, de Bacqueville, that “If the Prince liked to come, he might do so; but he must not take offence if she did not like him when she saw him.” Oxford was doing all he could at this time to keep her from liking him.

We have said that, in 1578, the Queen was trying to make Mendoza believe she was turning toward Philip and away from the French. Thus Cymbeline says to Lucius at the close of the play (V.5.459-63):

And Caius Lucius,
Although the victor, we submit to Caesar,
And to the Roman empire: promising
To pay our wonted tribute, from the which
We were dissuaded by our wicked queen. . . .

Regarding the passages pointing to Oxford’s state of mind about his wife, Anne Cecil, it is impossible to say whether they were written for the early version or later: perhaps the bitter ones were early and the remorseful ones later. Certainly part of Posthumus’s long speech (II.5) was added very late, for it takes in the Dark Lady; so was much of the long soliloquy (V.1). But Pisanio’s reproach, which is also a soliloquy (III.2), where we should read “Catholic” for “Italian,” was probably in the original version:

What false Italian—
As poisonous-tongu’d as handed-hath prevail’d
On thy too ready hearing? … O my master!
Thy mind to her is now as low as were
Thy fortunes. (4-11.)

And presently he says (III.4.122-3):

Some villain, ay, and singular in his art,
Hath done you both this cursed injury.

The allusion is, of course, to the agent of the Catholic Henry Howard who conveyed the slanderous story about his wife to Oxford in Paris. The name of the Italian lachimo is similar to that of Iago.

Imogen’s speech (III.4-74 et seq.) gives a poignant picture of Anne keeping the Greek Testament her husband had sent her next her heart:

What is here?
The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus
All turn’d to heresv.

With what irony the conscience-smitten Oxford castigates himself! He had written on the flyleaf of this book of “scriptures”: “Words of truth are fitting to a Vere—this “loyal Leonatus.” (He even uses Posthumus’s surname, Leonatus, to stress the correspondence with Vere.)

There is one thing that could be said of the Earl of Oxford from the beginning to the end. If he was scathing about others, he was scathing about himself as well. He never let himself off anything. He had had many an anguished hour in which he wondered how much truth there was in the terrible suspicion; he would write many an eloquent word about “slander” and “calumny,” as here when Pisanio says (III.4.33-9):

No, ’tis slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
All corners of the world; kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters.

It is interesting to note that Lucrece is foreshadowed in two passages: the Frenchman’s speech (I.4.57-64) and Iachimo’s (II.2-12 et seq.); and further, that lachimo finds Imogen has been reading “The tale of Tereus . . . where Philomel gave up” (45-6); for this is the basis of Titus Andronicus, which Oxford had so recently written. Striking also is his choice of the name, Posthumus, to represent himself, since in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, a poem upon which he will draw again for As You Like It, the following passage occurs (Book XLII):

Great Posthumus, to whom a double wreath
Pallas shall there, and Phoebus here bequeath.

Gabriel Harvey had bequeathed to the young Earl just such a “double wreath.”

The exquisite “Hark! hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings” (II.320-28) is reminiscent of Lord Oxford’s youthful poem, Desire and of a much later one, Sonnet 29, as well as of the lovely passage in Romeo and Juliet (III.5):

It was the lark, the herald of the morn.

Another point which connects the young Oxford intimately with this play is his use of the word “Cassibelan” instead of the customary “Cassivellaunus” (III.1-5): “Cassibelan” was the form used by his uncle, Arthur Golding, in his Caesar’s Commentaries.

As for the early title, we find the clue to that in the words of Cornelius, the doctor, reporting the death of the Queen who has previously been called Imogen’s “stepmother” (V.5.31-3):

With horror, madly dying, like her life;
Which, being cruel to the world, concluded
Most cruel to herself.

It is gratifying to record that Coleridge, unlike most of the commentators, believed Cymbeline to be an early play, and that the German critics agreed.

During this period when the situation was so critical for England, there were elaborate festivities at court. From the last of December through the second week of January four plays of Lord Oxford’s were presented, all primed with contemporary reference, political, social, and personal. What the French envoys thought of Cymbeline is not recorded. Mendoza must have been pleased and disarmed. And that suited Elizabeth very well at this particular juncture.


1. Quoted in Shaksper Not Shakespeare, by Win. H. Edwards; note, p. 11.

2. The Earl of Oxford’s letter “to the reader,” prefaced to The Courtier.

3. Aeschylus’s epitaph praises the soldier, not the great dramatist: “Aeschylus, the Athenian, Euphorion’s son, is dead. This tomb in Gela’s cornlands covers him. His glorious courage the hallowed field of Marathon could tell, and the long-haired Mede had knowledge of it.”—Tr. by Edith Hamilton: The Greek Way; p. 152.

4. Ward; pp. 157-8; quot. Gratulationes Valdinenses, libri quator, 1578.

5. Ward; pp. 160-2; cit. Cal. S.P.Spanish (1568-79), p. 607.

6. This is undoubtedly true, if the place were, indeed, called Milford Haven in the early version. In the revision, the name was used, or retained, for a definite purpose, as we shall show.

7. Abstracted from the account in Hume’s The Gr. Ld. B.; pp. 318-25.

8. This matter will be elucidated when we come to discuss the Sonnets.

9. Hume: The Courtships of Q. Eliz.; p. 167.

10.Anyone who supposes Cymbeline to have been written in 1609-10 misses the whole point and depth of the drama.

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