THIS STAR OF ENGLAND
Man of the Renaissance
by Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn
JAQUES HAS BEEN the subject of fulsome analysis on the part of innumerable critics of various nationalities. It seems that George Sand fell in love with him and, in her adaptation of As You Like It for the French stage, made him the motivating spirit of the play. This speaks well for Mme. Sand’s intuition, for indeed Jaques, in combination with his alter ego, Touchstone, is the motivating, or creative, spirit and thus the author of the play.
If scholars had not been, as it would seem, hypnotized by the blank stare of the mask, they would have realized that, for all the meagerness of the legend, they have had to deal with the liveliest, the most intensely alive, creature that ever inhabited this earth. Matthew Arnold penetrated the haze sufficiently to observe that the dramatist was “divinely strong, rich, and attractive”: true words, so far as they go. In Edward de Vere we have a genius who was sentient and dynamic, geared for sounding all the exultant and despairing, the wild, the noble, the piteous, and the base notes of humanity’s compass.
Furness says of Jaques:
Were he really possessed of all the qualities attributed to him by his critics, we should behold a man both misanthropic and genial, sensual and refined, depraved and elevated, cynical and liberal, selfish and generous, and finally, as though to make him still more like Hamlet, we should see in him the clearly marked symptoms of incipient insanity.
This is something like! In these words is discovered the dramatist himself–as he had perforce to be–who is indeed Hamlet as well as Jaques, who is Romeo-Mercutio, Valentine-Proteus, Bertram, Benedick, Othello, Kent-Lear, and all the rest. Because, through his almost superhuman elan, he was capable of being everything, he could understand everything.
We have arrived at Act II, scene 5, to find the melancholy music-lover listening to Amiens singing,
Under the greenwood tree,
Who loves to lie with me. . . . etc.
Jacques. More, more, I prithee, more.
Amiens. It will make you melancholy, Monsieur Jaques.
Jaques. I thank it. More! I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs.
Amiens. My voice is ragged; I know I cannot please you.
Jaques. I do not desire you to please me; I do desire you to sing. . . if ever I did thank any man, I’ll thank you.
Amiens sings again.
Jaques. I’ll give you a verse to this note, that I made yesterday in despite of my invention.
There follows the “ducdame” verse. But we must digress for a moment in order to quote Jonson’s satire on Jaques-Oxford as a composer of music in Cynthia’s Revels. Amorphus has said early in the play (I.1):
Since I trod on this side the Alps, I was not so frozen in my invention.
Now he has criticized a song of Hedon’s (IV. 1):
A pretty air; in general, I like it well: but in particular, your long dienote did arride me most, but it was somewhat too long. I can show you one almost of the same nature. . . of mine own.
He volunteers to sing his, because this is a satire on Oxford’s self-love. It alludes to the famous perfumed gloves the Earl had brought Elizabeth-Cynthia from Italy and to Venus and Adonis, which had by now been published, and in which Venus–as Jonson wishes to show he is aware–also stands for the amorous Elizabeth:
Thou more than most sweet glove,
Unto my more sweet love,
Suffer me to store with kisses
The empty lodging that now misses
The pure rosy hand that wear thee,
Whiter than the kid that bear thee.
Thou art soft, but that was softer;
Cupid’s self hath kiss’d it after
Than e’er he did his mother’s doves)
Supposing her the Queen of/aves,
That was thy mistress, BEST OF GLOVES.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hedon. Very well, in troth.
Amorphus. But very well! O, you are a mere mammothrept in judgment, then. Why, do you not observe how excellently the ditty is affected in every place? that I do not marry a word of short quantity to a long note, nor an ascending syllable to a descending tone? . . . which no intelligent musician, I know, will but affirm to be very rare, extraordinary, and pleasing.
(Jonson makes further allusion to Oxford as a musician in The Poetaster.)
To return to Jaques and his verse:
If it do come to pass,
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame:
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me.
Amiens. What is that “ducdame”?
Jaques. ‘Tis a Greek invocation to call fools into a circle.
Although we have commented before upon this rhyme about Elizabeth’s court circle, we quote it again, partly because it shows the same philosophy as that of “the Oxe” in The Begger’s Ape, partly because it so perfectly expresses Oxford’s present disillusionment. “Ducdame” is simply a way of saying lady duke, or woman sovereign.
When told the Duke was looking for him, Jaques has said:
He is too disputable for my company (34);
but now Duke Senior arrives (scene 7.)
Duke Senior. I think he be transform’d into a beast,
For I can nowhere find him like a man.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If he, compact of jars, grow musical,
We shall have shortly discord in the spheres.
We take this to mean that the world will soon ring with his compositions, as well as his plays, with which of course it already rings. Arundel had charged the Earl with “beastliness”; it is typical of him to flaunt the appellation. But there is a sous-entendu, for Jaques is the dramatist who becomes inhuman in the grip of his demon. We shall hear more of this.
Jaques’s entrance-speech gives us Oxford in the vein:
A fool, a fool! I met a fool in the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world. . . .
He winds up with:
O noble fool!
A worthy fool! Motley’s the only wear.
. . . One that hath been a courtier,
. . . and in his brain–
Which is as dryas the remainder biscuit
After a voyage–he hath strange places cramm’d
With observation, the which he vents
In mangled forms.
(Compare the Bastard’s speech about smacking of “observation”: K.J.: I.1.)
O that I were a fool!
I am ambitious for a motley coat.
Duke Senior. Thou shalt have one.
Jaques. It is my only suit;
Provided that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion thai: grows rank in them
That I am wise. I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I Please; for so fools have:
And they that are most galled with my folly,
They most must laugh. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Invest me in my motley; give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of th’ infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.
He is speaking here directly to Elizabeth. It is his only “suit”: he makes a pun about it. All he wishes from her is liberty to write the truth as he sees it.
The Duke tells him he would sin in chiding sin,
For thou thyself hast been a libertine,
And sensual as the brutish sting itself;
And all the embossed sores and headed evils
That thou with licence of free foot hast caught,
Wouldst thou disgorge into the general world. (II.7.65-9.)
Jaques retorts with an apologia for the playwright:
Why, who cries out on pride,
That can therein tax any private party?
Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea,
Till that the weary very means do ebb?
Which is to say that pride is so universal that even Vere’s true means falter and flag in representing it. He has not spared his own pride in his dramas (Timon: III.5.67-75; Hamlet: III.1.122-9, etc.). He has freely advertised to “the general world” his own transgressions, together with those of others. Let him whom it fits wear the cap.
Let me see wherein
My tongue hath wrong’d him: if it do him right,
Then he hath wrong’d himself. . . .
“We are arrant knaves all,” in other words; it is what we do that matters, not the generalized characterization a dramatist makes when invested in his motley.
He is interrupted by Orlando’s entrance.
Let me see wherein
My tongue hath wrong’d him: if it do him right,
Then he hath wrong’d himself. . . .
the answer being, a Gallic cock. Orlando’s account of his difficulties stresses “ever.” And Jaques observes that
All the world’s a stage. . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And one man in his time plays many parts.
Having been to Siena, Oxford had seen the Ages of Man depicted in the Cathedral: Infantia, Puerita, Adolescentia, Juventus, Verilitas, Senectus, Decrepitas. This picturesque catalogue would have awakened in the young English traveller memories of an old Morality. play performed in his father’s or some relative’s castle, Mundus and Infanta, a story of Life’s Progress, and entered upon the tables of his mind for later use.
Jaques’s Seven Ages, together with his classification of the types of melancholy, is satirized by the churlish Jonson, as we shall show.
We are as usual hampered by an embarras de richesses and must touch only the most conspicuous points. Orlando’s letters hung upon the trees allude to Alençon’s ceaseless love-letters to Elizabeth and also to Oxford’s messages to her–in the plays, which have to be produced here and there, either in a private theatre or in some nobleman’s home, or even publicly, since he is still ostracized from the court–to say nothing of sonnets which we may be sure he arranged to have put where she would see them. He undoubtedly wrote many which have not survived.
The scene between Orlando and Jaques (III.2.255-96) presents Oxford jibing at himself:
Jaques. I thank you for your company; but good faith, I had as lief have been by myself alone.
Further along he says (284):
The worst fault you have is to be in love.
Orlando. ‘Tis a fault I will not change for your best virtue. I am weary of you.
Jaques. By my troth, I was seeking for a fool [i.e., Touchstone, another aspect of himself] when I met you.
Orlando. He is drowned in the brook [Ver]: look but in and you shall see him. [Because he is yourself.]
Jaques. There I shall see my own figure.
Orlando. Which I take to be either a tool or a cipher. [I.e., 0.]
Here Oxford not only tens us he is these three characters: he adds his signature.
The “old religious uncle of mine,” of whom Rosalind speaks (III.2.343), is actually Oxford’s uncle, Arthur Golding, the Puritan. She remarks that Orlando is
rather point-device in your accoutrements; as loving yourself than seeming the lover of any other.
Orlando. Fair youth, I would I could make thee believe I love. (379-83.)
The Earl loved the Fair Youth as himself and more than himself, according to Sonnet 52 and others. This Fair Youth whom he loved as Antonio loved Bassanio, and as another Antonio loved Sebastian, played this part, as we have said, when he grew older.
We shall defer consideration of certain of the ensuing scenes which belong to a subsequent version, save to make the point that Phebe is Anne Vavasor, and it is Elizabeth speaking to her when Rosalind says (III.5.60):
Sell when you can; you are not for all markets.
The scene between Rosalind and the melancholy Jaques, upon which Orlando presently enters (IV.l) is replete with identity-clues.
Jaques. I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; nor the soldier’s, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s, which is politic; nor the lady’s, which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these; but it is a melancholy of my own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, which, by ‘often rumination, wraps me in a most humourous sadness. (10-19.)
We must interrupt here to speak of Jonson’s parody of all this, with a side glance at Hamlet’s advice to the players, in Cynthia’s Revels (II.l), in which he shows he knows perfectly well who Oxford is. Amorphus-Oxford is coaching Asotus-the Fair Youth in the art of acting, although Jonson calls it, for disguise, the art of being a courtier. One cannot but suspect that he had seen the Earl himself act the part of Jaques.
Amorphus. Plant yourself there and observe me. . . . I will now give you the particular and distinct face of every your most noted species of persons, as your merchant, your scholar, your lawyer, courtier, etc., and each of these so truly as you would swear. . . it were my most proper and genuine aspect. First, your merchant, or city-face, ’tis thus: a dull, plodding face, still looking in a direct line, forward: there is no great matter in this face. Then have you your student’s, or academic face, which is here an honest, simple, and methodical face; but somewhat more spread than the former. The third is your soldier’s face. . . etc.
To return to As You Like It, Rosalind replies,
A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s; then to have seen much and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands.
Jaques. Yes, I have gained my experience.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Orlando. Good day and happiness, dear Rosalind.
Jaques. Nay then, God be wi’ you, an you talk in blank verse.
Rosalind. Farewell, Monsieur Traveller: look you lisp, and wear strange suits, disable all the benefits of your own country, be out of love with your nativity. . . or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola. (IV.1.20 et seq.)
All this is pure de Vere, the “traveller,” who sold his lands “to see other men’s,” the fantastic, Italianate Englishman, who had of course “swam in a gondola”–where he had injured his knee. (Of course Alençon, “Monsieur,” was a traveller too.)
Rosalind asks Orlando (65-7):
What would you say to me now, an I were your very, very Rosalind?
. . . men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love (102-3),
is Oxford’s post-Romeo philosophy. And her statement,
. . . men are April when they woo, December when they wed (141-2),
recalls the fact that Oxford, born in April, wooed when very young and was quite cool by the time of his December wedding.
The following passage refers to Elizabeth’s public announcement that she will marry Alençon:
Rosalind. Then you must say, “I take thee, Rosalind, for wife,”
Orlando. I take thee, Rosalind, for wife.
Rosalind. I might ask you for your commission, but I do take thee, Orlando, for my husband. . . certainly, a woman’s thought runs before her actions. (129-35.)
The older brother’s conversion to a kindly attitude toward Orlando, the happy ending for the original play, was no more abrupt and unaccountable than the French King’s sudden complaisance toward Alençon, with his acceptance of all the terms the English Parliament had made. In fact, it is only on topical grounds that Oliver’s volte-face can be explained. At the time this is written we have been unable to interpret the parable of the old man, the snake and the lioness (IV.3.104 et seq.),
There is another topical passage (V.4.1-4):
Duke Senior. Dost thou believe, Orlando, that the boy
Can do all this that he hath promised?
Orlando. I sometimes do believe, and sometimes do not;
As those that fear they hope, and know they fear.
This is a realistic description of Alençon’s chronic suspense regarding Elizabeth’s true intentions. It was no doubt the way Oxford felt, too, about his restoration to favor.
Touchstone’s catalogue of “the degrees of the lie” is parodied almost literally by Ben Jonson in Cynthia’s Revels (V.2). After giving a lively illustration of “the lie seven times removed” (V.4.69-82) he runs off the causes (90-7):
Touchstone. O sir, we quarrel in print; by the book, as you have books for good manners [vide Jonson’s science of “courtship” below]; I will name you the degrees. The first, the “retort courteous;” the second, the “quip modest;” the third, the “reply churlish;” the fourth, the “reproof valiant;” the fifth, the “countercheck quarrelsome;” the sixth, the “lie with circumstance;” the seventh, the “lie direct.”
In Jonson’s parody, Amorphus-Oxford directs the proceedings, and his first line is a paraphrase of Rosalind’s words (I.2.122-3):
Be it known to all that profess courtship by these presents. . . that we, Ulysses-Polytropus-Amorphus, master of the noble and subtile science of courtship [i.e., courtship, or the art of the courtier], do give leave and licence to our provost, Acolastus-Polypragmon-Asotus, to play his master’s prize, against all masters whatsoever, in this subtile mystery, at these four, the choice and most cunning weapons of court-compliment, viz., the BARE ACCOST; the BETTER REGARD; the SOLEMN ADDRESS; and the PERFECT CLOSE. . . . And Phoebus save Cynthia!
The names can be translated thus. Ulysses: a traveller–Polytropus: drawing food, or material, from many sources–Amorphus: amorphous, without a distinct form of his own because taking many forms, as Oxford does in As You Like It–Acolastus: a scholar, or pupil–Polypragmon: of many deeds or practices–Asotus: from the South, or Southampton. Phoebus-Oxford and Cynthia-Elizabeth.
Again, in Cynthia’s Revels, Asotus rehearses for Amorphus, his master, or instructor, the court-behavior, supposedly, which he has learned, but actually, it would seem, stage-play. Bearing in mind that at the close of As You Like It, Rosalind enters with Hymen and bestows the “brides” (V.4.108 et seq.), and the Duke orders (178-9),
Play music! and you, brides, and bridegrooms all
With measure heap’d in joy, to the measures fall,
we catch the point of Amorphus’s rehearsal of his pupil, Asotus (III.3):
A little forward: so, sir. Now. . . come forth. . . . ‘Tis well-entered, sit. . . . Stay, you come on too fast. . . . First, you present yourself, thus. . . Prove thus much, I pray you. [Compare Hamlet’s “Speak the speech, I pray you.”] Marry, you shall say: “Dear Beauty,” or “Sweet Honour”. . . .
Asotus. Well, sir, I’ll enter again; her title shall be “My dear Lindabrides .”
This is as close to Rosalind and the “brides” as Jonson could dare go. He constantly applies the epithet, “traveller,” to Oxford; as when Crites-Jonson says of Amorphus-Oxford (V.2):
How tender a traveller’s spleen is! Comparison to men that deserve least is ever most offensive.
Ben Jonson’s spleen was far more sensitive than Oxford’s, as will be seen.
In conclusion, we shall note a few passages from the 1589 version of As You Like It, for their connection with that date (most of these cited by Admiral Holland).
Jaques. I’ll go sleep if I can; if I cannot, I’ll rail against all the first-born of Egypt. (II.5.59-60.)
Robert Greene, who had dedicated previous work to Lord Oxford, published Perimedes, the Smith of Memphis, in 1588, which cited the immorality, gambling, drunkenness, etc., of the upper class in Egypt, Memphis in particular.
Jaques. . . . Which is as dry as the remainder biscuit After a voyage. (II.7.39-40.)
Jaques (to Touchstone). . . . for thy loving voyage Is but two months victual’d. (V.4.191-2.)
Since the Armada had been defeated the year before, in 1588, the allusion is to the fact that the English Fleet was victualled for only two months at that time. Lord Oxford provided and commanded a ship which took part in this historic engagement, so he was well-informed. A secondary allusion here may be to his having plays ready for two months ahead.
Rosalind. . . . I will weep for nothing, like Diana in the fountain. (IV.I. 147-8.)
During 1586 Bartholomew Yonge translated Montemayor’s Diana, which tells of a clear “fountain” into which she continuously wept.
The “Dead shepherd” passage (IlI.5.80-1), from which the line, “Who ever lov’d that lov’d not at first sight,” has been assumed to be a quotation from Marlowe; while Touchstone’s remark (III.3.13-14) that when a man’s verses are not understood “it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room,” which has been said to refer to Marlowe’s murder, definitely points to Philip Sidney. Marlowe, who did not leave Cambridge until 1587, was killed in 1593; and he is far more likely to have taken the love-at-first-sight line from the older poet than vice versa. However, Philip Sidney had died in Flanders in 1586, and he had written a sonnet to Penelope Devereux, wife of the “rich Lord Rich,” in Astrophel and Stella, as follows:
Not at first sight, nor with a dribbled shot
Love gave the wound, which while I breathe will bleed;
But known worth did in time of mine proceed,
Till by degrees it had full conquest got;
I saw and liked, I liked but loved not.
I loved, but straight did not what love decreed.
At length to love’s decree I, forced, agreed,
Yet with repining at so partial lot. (1)
Sidney had addressed sonnets to Penelope as “Stella” simply, as many people believed, to give point to his poetical outpourings; and now it would seem that his friend Oxford had concluded he had not really loved her, since he had not loved her “at first sight.” He puns on “saw” when he has Phebe say:
Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might:
Who ever lov’d that lov’d not at first sight?
As for “a great reckoning in a little room,” it would appear to have reference rather to 1589 than a later date: either to a torture- chamber, the use of which had recently been revived, or, more specifically, to the trial, in 1589, of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, for treason, after four years’ imprisonment in the Tower. The trial, at which Lord Oxford was one of the judges, was held in a small corner of one of the largest rooms in England, Westminster Hall. Although the dimensions of the hall were 100 yards by 20 yards, and 30 yards high, a space of only 10 yards square was allotted for the proceedings. This would naturally have struck the Earl of Oxford as worthy to be recorded in his “brief chronicles of the time.”
It is significant that the characters, Jaques, Touchstone, Audrey, William, Martext–none of whom is concerned with the French story–do not appear in Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynd, from which the dramatist has been supposed to have taken his play, according to the dreary canon. Lodge, a notorious borrower, and even plagiarist, is much more likely to have written his story, perhaps at someone’s direction, from the French allegory of 1582. This is borne out by the fact that the title-page calls Rosalynd “Euphues’ Golden Legacie,” thus ostensibly implying derivation from Lyly, who was Oxford’s secretary throughout the 1580’s and who “compiled” Euphues. Jaques has been called Euphues Redivivus, as we have previously said; but of course Euphues is Oxford Redivivus. So it is Oxford’s “Golden Legacie.”
We shall return to As You Like It for a brief survey of the final revision. There is still more to be said. The play’s too obvious revelation of authorship explains why As You Like It was not published before it appeared in the First Folio (by which time it could seem to have been derived from Lodge’s work)–why publication was “staied,” or as we say nowadays, banned, when an effort was made to bring it out. Lord Oxford’s anonymity was a serious affair.