Chapter 18

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

Chapter Eighteen


THERE IS, of course, no way of telling just which passages satirizing Harvey appeared in the first version of the Double Maske and which were added after his lampoon of Oxford. It seems that the Earl was fair enough in allowing Holofernes to criticize what he considered Armado’s affected pronunciation—as usual not sparing himself:

Holofernes. He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument. I abhor such fanatical phantasimes, such insociable and point-devise companions; such rackers of orthography, as to speak dout, fine, when he should say, doubt; det, when he should pronounce, debt,—d, e, b, t, not d, e, t: he clepeth a calf, cauf; half, hauf. . . . This is abhominable, which he would call abominable. . . . (V.1.16 et seq.)

All of which would indicate that Oxford not only enriched the language but refined the pronunciation, did away with an excessive use of the aspirate h, introduced the broad a, and so on. Even in some of Elizabeth’s letters, it is spelled hit. If he is responsible for changing that, we owe him even more than we had realized!

However, the passage which precedes the one quoted above surely followed the lampoon.

In October 1579, Spenser wrote his old college friend and tutor, Gabriel Harvey, about the literary club founded under Sidney’s leadership, the Areopagus, explaining that they had decided to forego the use of rhyme and had drawn up certain rules for English hexameters. Harvey evidently sent him some of his own composition; and in April 1580, Spenser wrote again, from Leicester House, where he was visiting Sidney:

Good Master Harvey: I doubt not but you have some great important matter in hand, which all this while restraineth your pen and wonted readiness, in provoking me unto that wherein yourself now fault. If there be any such thing in hatching I pray you heartily let us know, before all the world see it. . . . I think the earthquake was also there with you (which I would gladly learn) as it was here with us; (1) over-throwing divers old buildings and pieces of churches. . . . I like your late English hexameters so exceedingly well that I also enure my pen sometime in that kind, which I find indeed, as I have heard you often defend in word, neither so hard nor so harsh, that it will easily and fairly yield itself to our mother tongue. (2)

In reply to this letter Harvey spoke in “short but sharp and learned judgment of earthquakes,” and sent along more hexameter verses, including the pasquinade on Lord Oxford, which he never dreamed Spenser would have printed. And no wonder, for it is a rather deplorable product qua poetry. Yet when we discount the exaggeration prompted by wounded vanity and germane to any caricature, it gives us invaluable information about the extraordinary personality of a man who was one of the most complex and complete creations in the human category. The title of Harvey’s outpouring was Speculum Tuscanismi: the Mirror of Tuscanism, or really Italianism.

Since Galatea came in, and Tuscanism gan usurp,
Vanity above all: villainy next her, stateliness Empress.
No man but a minion, stout, lout, plain, swain, quoth a Lording:
No words but valorous, no works but womanish only.
For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in show,
Indeed most frivolous, not a look but Tuscanish always.
His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamie smirking,
With forefinger kiss, and brave embrace to the footward.
Large-bellied Kodpeased doublet, unkodpeased half hose,
Straight to the dock like a shirt, and close to the britch like a diveling.
A little Apish flat couched fast to the pate like an oyster,
French Camarick ruffs, deep with a whiteness starched to the purpose.
Every one A per se A, his terms and braveries in print,
Delicate in speech, quaint in array: conceited in all points.
In Courtly guiles a passing singular odd man,
For gallants a brave Mirror, a Primrose of Honour,
A Diamond for nonce, a fellow peerless in England.
Not the like discourser for Tongue, and head to be found out,
Not the like resolute man for great and serious affairs,
Not the like Lynx to spy out secrets and privities of States,
Eyed like to Argus, eared like to Midas, nos’d like to Naso,
Winged like to Mercury, fittest of a thousand for to be employed:
This, nay more than this, doth practise of Italy in one year.
None do I name, yet some do I know, that a piece of a twelve month
Hath so perfited outly and inly, both body, both soul,
That none for sense and senses half matchable with them.
A vulture’s smelling, Ape’s tasting, sight of an Eagle,
A Spider’s touching, Hart’s hearing, might of a Lion.
Compounds of wisdom, wit, prowess, bounty, behaviour,
All gallant virtues, all qualities of body and soul:
O thrice ten hundred thousand times blessed and happy,
Blessed and happy travail, Travailer most blessed and happy. (3)

All this was probably true, if somewhat exaggerated, and Oxford would have been the last man in the world to resent anything that was true. But there was a postscript which would have infuriated him, while filling him with contempt. Harvey, hurt with Oxford, flattered to have been invited to join Sidney’s group, proceeded to flatter Sidney and Dyer in the following appended lines:

Tell me in good sooth, doth it not too evidently appear that this English Poet wanted but a good pattern before his eyes, as it might be some delicate and choice elegant Poesy of good Master Sidney’s or Master Dyer’s (our very Castor and Pollux for such and many greater matters) when this trim gear was in the hatching? (4)

The Earl, seeing through this hypocrisy, knowing the poor quality of Sidney’s and Dyer’s work and remembering Dyer’s advice to Hatton as to how to denigrate Oxford with the Queen (for, as Harvey said, he saw, smelled, tasted, touched, heard, knew everything)—the Earl, disgusted with Harvey for his sycophancy, added a few passages to his play.

The first is Dull’s spiked pun (IV.2.64-5) following Nathaniel’s remark that Holofernes has “a rare talent.”

Dull (Aside.) If a talent be a claw, look how he claws him with a talent.

Another occurs in Holofernes’s speech (122-30) where the reference to Ovidius Naso is double-edged. Lord Oxford was so steeped in Ovid’s works—especially the Metamorphoses—and drew upon them so much for his own that his and Ovid’s names were habitually connected by his contemporaries. So here Holofernes is made to refer to Ovid by his last name, Naso—which is also a pun on the Latin word for nose, nasus—recalling his own statement in the Speculum Tuscanismi that the Poet he wrote of was “nos’d like to Naso.” Thus:

Holofernes. You find not the apostrophas, 5 and so miss the accent….? 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 rider. But, damosella virgin, was this directed to you?

This is a flaying satire on the execrable hexameters perpetrated by Harvey and written in his own pedantic style. He thinks if he has the right number of feet—the “numbers ratified’ ‘—he has composed hexameters, but he has “missed the accent.” As for the “elegancy, etc. of “poesy, caret,” that is omitted. Ovidius Naso wrote hexameters, yes; but his were poetry. This Naso can certainly “smell out the odoriferous flowers” of Harvey’s fancy, the “jerks” of his “invention”! “To imitate is nothing.” Thus Oxford in scorn. The hound imitates “his master, the ape his keeper,” etc. “But”—here he addresses the Queen, whom Harvey seemed to have been apostrophizing in his clumsy and obscure opening lines, as “stateliness Empress”—”But, damosella virgin,” says the Earl’s dummy, Holofernes, speaking from the Earl’s ventricle, “was this directed to you?”

And the irrepressible “madcap Earl” allows his dummy to paraphrase the very caricature he himself has written in replying to Nathaniel’s speech about “a companion of the king’s” (Oxford) . . .”Don Adriano Armado” (V.1.9-14):

Holofernes. Novi hominem tanquem te: his humour is lofty, his discourse peremptory, his tongue filed, his eye ambitious, his gait majestical, and his general behaviour vain, ridiculous, and thrasonical. He is too picked, too spruce, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as I may call it.

He has paraphrased with barbed wit Harvey’s own description of his fastidious attire, this “passing singular odd man,” and he tops it off perfectly with the word “peregrinate”; for Harvey had wound up his characterization, “Blessed and happy travail, Travailer most blessed and happy.” Of course Harvey had meant that the Tuscanish Poet, this Italianate Englishman, was both a traveller and a travailer.

This point gives us an opportunity to illustrate two truths at once, and we must make a brief digression, since both are essential to our extraordinary story. The first is that, according to a modern editor of The Spanish Tragedy, “Travailers and Travellers were not distinguished in Elizabethan spelling.” (6)

The second is the passage from that drama, always attributed to Kyd, which embodies this word and, at the same time, demonstrates in many ways that Oxford himself wrote the play, although he was obliged to allow someone else to pose as the author:

Bel-Imperia. Then be thy father’s pleasant bower the field
Where first we vow’d a mutual amity;
The court were dangerous,
that place is safe.
Our hour shall be when Vesper ‘gins to rise,
That summons home distressful travellers.
. . . . . . . .
Horatio. But honey-sweet and honourable love,
Return we now into your father’s sight;
Dangerous suspicion waits on our delight. (Sp. Trag.: II.2.42-55.)

Bel-Imperia and Horatio were, of course, Elizabeth and Oxford; “thy father’s pleasant bower,” Oxford’s inherited estate, Havering of the Bowre, appropriated, however, by Henry VIII for his own use-where the Queen is on record as having visited him. “The court were dangerous” indeed for these two lovers. “When Vesper ‘gins to rise” is from the same hand that wrote in Cymbeline (also 1578), “And Phoebus ‘gins arise.” “Distressful travellers” prefigures “the wretched slave . . . cramm’d with distressful bread” (H.V.: IV.1.273-5). But for our purpose here, the important epithet is “honey-sweet,” for it is the same term Armado-Oxford will use toward the Princess-Elizabeth in Love’s Labour’s Lost, in the passage we are now coming to: “my fair, sweet, honey monarch.”

Returning then to Love’s Labour’s Lost, this was not all Harvey had to swallow. Holofernes states that in the pageant of the Nine Worthies he will be Judas Maccabeus (V.1.125). Later when Armado enters, the Princess asks (V.2.522):

Doth this man serve God?
Berowne. Why ask you?
Princess. He speaks not like a man of God’s making.
Armado. That’s all one, my fair, sweet, honey monarch; for, I protest, the schoolmaster is exceeding fantastical; too-too vain; too-too vain; but we will put it, as they say, to fortuna de la guerra.

Here is exquisite retaliation. Oxford addresses the “stateliness Empress” as “my fair, sweet, honey monarch” (his spirits were really irrepressible) and declares that Harvey, “the schoolmaster,” is “fantastical” and “too-too vain.” But—he informs the old hypocrite—we will put this to the fortunes of war. You’ll get as good as you send.

However, the pedant gets worse; for presently, when Holofernes comes on as one of the Nine Worthies, he is confounded (589 et seq).

Holofernes. “Judas I am”—
Dumaine. A Judas!
Holofernes. Not Iscariot, sir.
“Judas I am, yclept Maccabaeus.”
Dumaine. Judas Maccabaeus clipt is plain Judas.
Berowne. A kissing traitor. How art thou prov’d Judas?

They mock him with puns. It was obviously this very scene which caused Nashe some years later to warn Harvey of “the eternal jests” which, if he went too far, Oxford, “should he take thee in hand again . . . would maul thee with.”

Holofernes stands his ground, with:

I will not be put out of countenance.
Berowne. Because thou hast no face.

Then, after more jibes, followed by Holofernes’s admission that he has, indeed, been put out of countenance, Berowne says (615):

False: we have given thee faces.
But you have outfaced them all.
Berowne. An thou wert a lion, we would do so.
Boyet. Therefore, as he is an ass, let him go.
. . . . .
Berowne. For the ass to the Jude? give it him:—Jud-as, away!

And so far as Oxford was concerned, that was that. He had said his say and never afterward bore a grudge.

Gabriel seems to have been badly frightened when he found his hexameters had been published. He must have been relieved that he got off as easily as he did. He later wrote that there had been one who

would needs forsooth very courtly perswade the Earle of Oxforde, that something in those Letters, and namely the Mirrour of Tuscanismo, was palpably intended against him: whose noble Lordship I protest, I never meant to dishonour with the least prejudicial word of my Tongue or pen: but ever kept a mindefull reckoning of many bounden duties toward The-same: since in the prime of his gallantest youth, hee hath bestowed Angels upon me in Christes College in Cambridge, and otherwise voutsafed me many gratious favors. . . . But the noble Earle, not disposed to trouble his loviall mind with such Saturnine paltery, still continued, like his magnificent selfe. . .(7)

All the same, the old humbug hid out for eight weeks at Leicester House until he saw that all would be well.

In the course of time, when Nashe was at outs with Harvey, he gave an account of the affair, writing that Harvey

came very short but yet sharp upon my Lord of Oxford with a rattling bunch of English hexameters. . . . I had forgot to observe unto you, out of his first Four Familiar Epistles, his ambitious strata gem to aspire:

that whereas two great Peers being at jar, and their quarrel continued to bloodshed, he would needs, uncalled and when it lay not in his way, step in on the one side, which indeed was the safer side (as the fool is crafty enough to sleep in a whole skin) and hew and slash with his hexameters; but hewed and slashed he had been as small as chippings, if he had not played Duck Fryer and hid himself eight weeks in the nobleman’s house for whom with his pen he thus bladed. (8)

Ward has a curious note here, suggesting that Nashe is alluding to the tennis-court quarrel. But Sidney was not a “great Peer.” And Nashe says “two great Peers being at jar, and their quarrel continued to bloodshed.” He adds that Harvey stepped in “on the one side, which indeed was the safer side” and slashed with his hexameters— against, we are to take it, the other side. Since he took refuge in Leicester’s house, we can only conclude that Leicester and Oxford had had a fight to the point of bloodshed. It would be highly gratifying to know if it were because of the “Sore L” passage in the Double Maske! Of course, history is mute on the subject, for it was ordained that the world should never know that the Earl of Oxford had written Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Nashe bears out our suspicion that it was Harvey’s “ambitious stratagem to aspire” which caused him to curry favor with Sidney and Dyer, whose colleague, Spenser, had suggested that he write for them. No wonder Oxford was indignant. No wonder he called the old hypocrite a “kissing traitor.” Harvey was thankful enough that he was allowed, as Nashe put it, “to sleep in a whole skin.”

In another pamphlet, Nashe wrote about this same occasion when Harvey, as he expressed it,

cast up certain rude humours of English hexameter verses that lay upon his stomach; a certain Nobleman stood in his way as he was vomiting, and from top to toe he was all to bewrayed him [sic] with Tuscanism.

He continues with a reference to a pamphlet Lyly had written, in which he says Lyly had spoken up for Harvey, although the latter had accused Lyly of trying to inflame Lord Oxford against him.

He [Lyly] that threatened to conjure up Martin’s wit, hath written something too in your [Harvey’s] praise, in Pap-hatchet, for all you accuse him to have courtly incensed the Earl of Oxford against you. Mark him well; he is but a little fellow, but he hath one of the best wits in England. Should he take thee in hand again (as he flieth from such inferior concertation) I prophesy there would be more gentle readers die of a merry mortality engendered by the eternal jests he would maul thee with than there have done of this last infection (i.e., L.L.L.) I myself, that enjoy but a mite of wit in comparison of his talent, in pure affection to my native country, make my style carry a press (of) sail, am fain to cut off half the stream of thy sport breeding confusion, for fear it should cause a general hicket [hiccup] throughout England. (9)

Since this second passage was written at the time of the Pap-hatchet pamphlet, it belongs to the year 1589; and this is the time at which Love’s Labour’s Lost was revised, with the Fair Youth appearing as Moth. So many “gentle [aristocratic] readers” would laugh at “the eternal jests he would maul thee with,” Nashe means, “that it would cause a general hicket throughout England.” These jests are eternal; they had already been fresh for ten years, and Nashe knew they would continue so.

Still later, at the turn of the century in fact, Jonson was satirizing, in Cynthia’s Revels, Love’s Labour’s Lost, thus showing that its popularity had continued for more than twenty years. (Nothing galled Jonson so much as the persistent popularity of Oxford’s old plays, while his own, which he considered masterpieces of scholarship and wit, were performed to empty houses.) Oxford himself was Amorphus. The key-passage was Armado’s speech (I.1.228 et seq.):

So it is, besieged with sable-coloured melancholy, I . . . betook myself to walk. The time when? About the sixth hour. . . . Now for the ground which . . . Then for the place where.

Jonson’s scene (IV.1) is as follows (he appears even to have taken the name “Phantaste” from Oxford’s “phantasime,” if not “Mona” from “Maria”):

Phantaste. Nay, we have another sport. . . . Of A thing done, and Who did it, etc.
Philautia. I, good Phantaste, let’s have that: Distribute the places.
Phantaste. Why, I imagine, A thing done; Hedon thinks, Who did it; Moria, With what it was done; Anaides, Where it was done; Amorphus, For what cause it was done; you, Philautia, What followed upon the doing of it; and this gentleman [who, by the way, is Asotus, or Southampton], Who would have done it better. What? is it conceived about?
All. Yes, yes.
Pha. Then speak you, sir. Who would have done it better?
Aso. How! does it begin at me?
Pha. Yes, sir: this play is called the Crab, it goes backward. (10)
Aso. May I not name myself?
Phi. If you please, sir, and dare abide the venture of it.
Aso. Then I would have done it better, whatever it is.
Pha. No doubt on ‘t, sir: a good confidence. What followed upon the act, Philautia?
Phi. A few heat drops, and a month’s mirth.
Pha. For what cause, Amorphus?
Amo. For the delight of ladies.
Pha. When, Argurion?
Arg. Last progress.
Pha. Where, Anaides?
Ana. Why, in a pair of pain’d slops. [i.e., large, loose breeches, such as Harvey may have worn.]
Pha. With what,
Mor. With a glyster. [i.e., sparkle, or glitter.]
Pha. Who, Hedon?
Hed. A traveller.
Pha. Then the thing done was, An oration was made. Rehearse. An oration was made—
Hed. By a traveller—
Mor. With a glyster—
Arg. Last progress—
Amo. For the delight of ladies—
Phi. A few heat drops and a month’s mirth followed.
And this silent gentleman would have done it better. (11)

This is quite lucid. “An oration was made” by Gabriel Harvey praising the Earl of Oxford on the 1578 progress; but Jonson is speaking of the play Oxford wrote after the oration—the play in which much was done “for the delight of [the] ladies;” and it was this which was made by “a traveller,” with “a glyster,” or sparkling wit, after the “last progress,” which caused “a few heat drops,” on Harvey’s part, and “a month’s mirth,” not only at court, we may take it, but in bohemia as well.

All during the year 1579 and until December 1580, Lord Oxford remained “superlative in the Prince’s favour.” Buoyant in spirit, animated by a creative energy remarkable even in the heyday of the Renaissance, he turned out one play after another. Besides those listed for 1579-80–the first versions of Arden of Feversham, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry VI, The Merchant of Venice, Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night—besides these, we are confident that he wrote the greater part of Edward II, Edward III, The Spanish Tragedy, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and other of the apocryphal plays: perhaps not all these during this exact period, but thereabouts. He was exuberant, prolific, at the top of his form.

But now a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand—or, more accurately, than a woman’s figure—had appeared on the horizon. As the dark wanton, Rosaline, had fascinated Berowne, so the siren, Anne Vavasor, had ensnared the imagination and the emotions of the Earl.

While Elizabeth delighted in having witty courtiers and maids in constant attendance, she was, as we have said, bitterly opposed to any love-affairs among them. The fiction must be preserved that the men were all in love with her, while the young women were—as she herself was supposed to be—dedicated to Diana (herself) and chastity.

The chief reason that Hatton remained in her favor for so many years was the fact that he had no other love but her; he was almost masochistic in his devotion, but that pleased the Queen. Not only did she banish Leicester and deprive him for a time of his liberty when she heard of his marriage to Lettice Knollys, she also put Ralegh in the Tower, years later, for having an affair with Elizabeth Throckmorton, whom he subsequently married; even during her old age, she was infuriated when the young Earl of Essex married Sir Philip Sidney’s widow. And she coerced her maids shamefully when she found they were in love.

By now Oxford had seen that nothing of consequence was to come of his intimate relationship with Elizabeth. Moreover, she had fallen a prey to the charms of Simier, with whom she was ostensibly negotiating for her marriage to Alençon. She was, for policy’s sake, playing up this marriage just now for all it was worth, even persuading her ministers that she meant to go through with it. Her behavior with Simier was such that gossip was rife at court about a liaison between them. This was supposed to have continued even after Alençon himself had appeared on the scene. It was said that the Queen had been observed one night keeping a rendezvous with Simier in the bed-chamber of one of her ladies and had come face to face with Alençon “at the door of her bedchamber with only her shift and nightgown on, and that he had remained with her for three hours.” Whether this were true or not—and Oxford undoubtedly knew—she was probably too much absorbed in her own amours at the moment to be suspicious of others.

The Earl and his new mistress must have had frequent meetings. It would appear that she had at one time visited him at his estate in Essex, to judge from the setting of the famous poem which connects the two and gives us a clue to how the romance developed. The poem is preserved in manuscript in the Bodleian Library and reads as follows:


Sitting alone upon my thoughte, in melancholy moode,
In sighte of sea, and at my back an ancyente hoarye woode,
I saw a faire young lady come, her secret feares to wayle,
Cladd all in coulor of a Nun and covered with a vaylle:
Yet (for the day was callme and cleane) I myghte discern her face,
As one myghte see a damaske rose hid under christall glasse:
Three times with her softe hand full hard on her left syde she knocks,
And syghed so sore as myghte have movde some pittye in the rockes:
From syghes, and sheddinge amber teares, into sweete songe she brake,
When thus the Echo answered her to everye word she spake:


O heavens, who was ye first that bredd in me this feavere? Vere.
Whoe was the first that gave ye wounde whose fearre I ware for evere? Vere.
What tyrant, Cupid, to mye harme usurpes thy golden quivere? Vere.
What wighte first caughte this harte, and can from bondage it deliver? Vere.
Yet who doth most adore this wighte, oh hollowe caves tell true? You.
What nymphe deserves his lykings best, yet doth in sorrow rue? You.
What makes him not rewarde good will with some rewarde or ruthe? Youth.
May I his favour matche with love, if he my love will trye? I.
May I requite his birthe with faythe? then faithfull will I dy? I.

And I that knew this ladye well,
Said Lord how great a mirakle
To hear how eccho toulde the truthe
As true as Phoebus orakle. (12)

(Note: The Elizabethans frequently used I for ay.)

Since this poem is undated, one can only infer that it preceded by a considerable period of time the play in which we meet la Vavasor’s counterpart, dark Rosaline. (Contributory evidence is that the Earl himself, here, ignored the “apostrophas.”) She was evidently attracted first, at a time when his youth, as he indicates, made him somewhat cool; and perhaps the affair was resumed several years after this poetic encounter. He was, later still, to write of this same charmer:

And when a woman woos, what woman’s son
Will sourly leave her till she have prevail’d? (Son. 41.)

It was Elizabeth of England and Anne Vavasor who caused this poet’s attitude toward women to be so hopelessly ambivalent.

No wonder the Queen’s maid wore this wound of Cupid with fear. The Earl was a great peer of the realm, he had been for a long time Elizabeth’s more or less exclusive property, and he was married to the daughter of the Lord Treasurer. Even this sophisticated young woman, who had many lovers during her career: Berowne’s remarks showed that Oxford had no illusions upon this score—even such a “light wench” as she would have realized that an affair with the Earl of Oxford would be a hazardous adventure. But, whenever it began, it had by 1580 become serious.

Although Edward de Vere did not publish his long poem, Venus and Adonis, until 1593, when the necessity had arisen for him to adopt a nom de plume, he may have begun working on it well before 1580. (Like the plays, it bears evidences of different periods of composition.) It has certain features in common with the Echo poem quoted above, and also with a beautiful play about a pair of star-crossed lovers which Oxford was to write in the early 1580’s. We have already pointed out the resemblance between the last two lines of Anne Vavesor’s Eccho and Helena’s speech about Bertram (All’s Well: I.3.156-7):

My master, my dear lord he is; and I
His servant live, and will his vassal die.

(We might note in passing that Anne is called a “nymph,” as Ophelia will be, both characters representing Elizabeth’s maids, who were often called nymphs by the poets. The word “nun” is also used in connection with both, for the same reason.)

But there is a closer resemblance to Venus and Adonis in this poem. For here we have:

Three times with her softe hand full hard on her left syde she knocks,
And syghed so sore as myghte have movde some pittye in the rockes:
From syghes, and sheddinge amber teares, into sweete song she brake,
When thus the Echo answered her to everye word she spake;

whereas in the maturer poem, Venus and Adonis (st. 139-42), we find the following:

And now she beats her heart whereat it groans,
That all the neighbour caves, as seeming troubled,
Make verbal repetition of her moans;
Passion on passion deeply is redoubled:
“Ay me!” she cries, and twenty times, “Woe, woe!”
And twenty echoes twenty times cry so.
She marking them, begins a wailing note,
And sings extemporally a woeful ditty;
How love makes young men thrall and old men dote,
How love is wise in folly, foolish witty:
Her heavy anthem still concludes in “Woe.”
And still the choir of echoes answers “So.”
. . . . . . . . .
For who hath she to spend the night withal,
But idle sounds resembling parasites,
Like shrill-tongued tapsters answering every call,
Soothing the humour of fantastic wights?
She says, ” ‘Tis so;” they answer all, “‘Tis so;”
And would say after her if she said “No!”

(Incidentally, this last stanza alludes to Elizabeth and her sycophants.)

Now compare a verse from the play referred to:

Hist! Romeo, hist! Oh for a falconer’s voice
To lure this tassel-gentle back again,
Bondage is hoarse and may not speak aloud,
Else I would tear the cave where Echo lies
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than mine
With repetition of my Romeo’s name. (II.2.158-63.)

The echo of “Romeo” is “E. O.” In the other poem the echo is “Vere,” which, since it was the French form of the Danish “Veer,” is of course pronounced broadly to rhyme with “there.” We have italicized words which are repeated in these poems to emphasize the similarity of imagery and thought. Vistas of this kind open out on all sides which we should like to explore, but we must refrain.

There are only a few recorded facts about Anne Vavasor, but she will appear more vividly in the plays and the Sonnets than documented facts could ever present her.

There is one other literary allusion to the Echo poem of which we must speak briefly and which seems to have been missed by hundreds of experts. It occurs in Ben Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels, or The Fountain of Self-Love, with its dedication To the Special Fountain of Manners, the Court. This play is a satire on the Earls of Oxford and Southampton whom, as courtiers, the son of the bricklayer envied, ridiculed, admired and hated, and, in the case of Oxford, ceaselessly imitated. Cynthia’s Revels are, we repeat, Elizabeth’s court-plays, written by her chief courtier, Lord Oxford; and since they are all fundamentally autobiographical, Jonson sees them inspired by “self-love.”

(It is hardly necessary to remind anyone familiar with Jonson’s works that no man could have been more infatuated with himself, more tiresomely self-righteous, than he; but that is beside our present point.)

The play opens, after a tedious Induction by three Child actors, in A Grove and a fountain. There is another tedious dialogue between Mercury and Cupid. Echo is released from her cave for a short while at Mercury’s call:

Echo, fair Echo, speak,
‘Tis Mercury that calls thee; sorrowful nymph,
Salute me with thy repercussive voice,
That I may know what cavern of the earth
Contains thy airy spirit—

(Compare Romeo and Juliet:

. . . . the cave where Echo lies
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than mine.)

He continues, asking

       . . . . how or where
I may direct my speech that thou mayst hear.
Echo (below).
So nigh?

She is imprisoned again beside the Fountain of Self-Love. Amorphus-Oxford will straightway appear, the implication being that he not only loves the sound of his own voice repeated to him by Echo, but that he likes to drink of the waters of the Fountain of Self-Love. The customary identity-clues are provided, as we shall see, and Oxford’s own peculiar use of “your” in cataloguing things.

Enter Amorphus hastily.
Amo. Dear spark of beauty, make not so fast away.
Echo. Away.
Amo. I am neither your Minotaur, nor your Centaur, nor your satyr, nor your hyena, nor your babion, but your mere traveller, believe me.
Echo. Leave me.
Amo. Know you from whom you fly? or whence?
Echo. Hence.
Amo. This is somewhat above strange. A nymph of her feature and lineament to be so preposterously rude. . . . Liberal and divine fount, suffer my profane hand to take of thy bounties. . . . By the purity of my taste, here is ambrosiac water; I will sup of it again. By thy favour, sweet fount. See, the water, a more running, subtile, and humourous nymph than she, permits me to touch and handle her. What should I infer? If my behaviours had been of a cheap or customary garb, my garments trite, my countenance illiterate . . . then I might, with some change of colour, have suspected my faculties. But knowing myself an essence so sublimated and refined by travel . . . so alone in fashion, able to render the face of any statesman living . . . one that . . . was your first that ever enrich’d his country with the true laws of the duello; whose optics have drunk the spirit of beauty in some eight score and eighteen princes’ courts. . . .

Crites (Jonson) enters, and they speak of the “Muses’ well,” which is the subject of the couplet at the beginning of Venus and Adonis. At the “palace,” (IV.1)—this of course Elizabeth’s, or Cynthia’s, palace—the frivolous friends of Amorphus are waiting for him to bring them some of the waters from the Fountain of Self-Love. It is in this scene that the game about the court-drama, Love’s Labour’s Lost, occurs. They converse:

Phantaste. I would this water would arrive once, our travelling friend so commended to us.
Argurion. So would I, for he left all us [sic] in travail with expectation of it.
Pha. Pray Jove, I never rise from this couch, if ever I thirsted more for a thing in my whole time of being a courtier.

This continues at some length, Jonson bringing in his favorite comparison of Oxford to a marmoset. The play is a tissue of phrases from, and paraphrases of, the Earl of Oxford’s dramas, all of which, with the exception of Henry VIII, had been performed by the time Cynthia’s Revels was written, in about 1599, so that the keen Elizabethan audience was able to catch all the allusions. We shall refer to passages from time to time. A more detailed analysis will be reserved for Every Man Out of His Humour and The Poetaster, which are more important to our study.

The point is that Ben Jonson knew that Oxford’s plays were autobiographical and that he was the prime author of Elizabeth’s court-dramas throughout the 1570’s, ’80’s, and ’90’s. Therefore he called his satire Cynthia’s Revels, or The Fountain of Self-Love.


1. Stowe, in his Annals (ed. 1631, p. 689), tells of the severe earthquake of April 6, in Easter week, which “caused such amazedness of the people as was wonderful for that time, and caused them to make earnest prayers unto Almighty God.”

2. Ward; quot. The Works of Spenser, ed. R. Morris; p. 611.

3. The Works of Gabriel Harvey, D. Cl.; ed. Dr. Grosart; vol. I, pp. 83-6.

4. Incidentally, the third line of the Speculum aims a politic dart at the rhyming practised by the young Lord Oxford, which the Areopagus eschewed.

5. The words winged and eyed in lines 20-1 of the Speculum should have been wing’d and ey’d; thus he “missed the accent.”

6. Wm. A. Neilson: Chief Elizabethan Dramatists: note to The Sp. Tragedy; p. 161.

7. The Works of Gabriel Harvey; vol. I, p. 184.

8. The Works of Thomas Nashe; ed. McKerrow; vol. III, p. 78.

9. Op. cit.; vol. I, p. 300.

10. Because Cynthia’s Revels satirizes certain scenes in Hamlet, this evidently refers to Hamlet’s remark to Polonius (II.2.203-5): “for you … should be as old as I am, if, like a crab, you could go backward.”

11. Southampton is called ‘this silent gentleman” because he never appeared under his own name in the theatrical world.

12. Bodleian. Rawlinson Poetical Ms., 85.11. Quot. by Ward; p. 228.

Contents | Chapter Nineteen