Chapter 41

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

Chapter Forty-One


THE LAST PLAY Lord Oxford wrote before being reinstated in . the Queen’s favor on June 1, 1583, would seem to have been the original version of The Tempest. Constituting, as it does, a symbolic statement of his reverses and the mastery he has achieved over his enemies, together with a resolve to free his art from certain galling fetters, it forms a fitting conclusion to the so-called “gloomy period,” which had begun soon after the close of 1580.

An interesting light is thrown upon the date marking the beginning of this period by the list of New Year’s gifts to the Queen for 1579-80, when he was at the height of favor, and for 1580-81, just before his fall, after which his name does not appear again, although his Countess is listed for gifts from 1583-84 through 1586-87. In its way, this document provides almost as clear a commentary upon Oxford’s changed position as his play does.

Only the Earl of Leicester’s name precedes his on the list for 1579-80. Then we find:

By therle of Oxford, a very feyer juell of golde, wherein is a helmet of gold and small diamonds furnished, and under the same is fine rubyes, one bigger than threst, and a small diamond brokenne; and all threst of the same juell furnesshed with small diamonds.

This was the year the Queen gave him “a bason and ewer. . . and a paire of Potts.” The basin and ewer were appropriate for his hereditary office of the Ewry; and the “helmet of gold and small diamonds” of his gift was significant because, as patron of the English theatre, his helmet–like that of Pallas, patroness of the Athenian theatre–was an emblem of invisibility.

In the 1580-81 list of the Queen’s New Year’s gifts, the following appears:

Given by therle of Oxford, Item, a fayre jewell of goulde, being a beaste of ophalls, with a fayre lozenged dyamonde, three great pearles pendante, fully garnished with small rubyes, dyamonds, and small pearles, one horne lacking.

Again “therle’s” gift had symbolic significance.

Now in contrast to Oxford’s abrupt disappearance from the New Years’ lists, the names of his enemies are conspicuous in 1582-83, six months before his reinstatement:

Item, a juell of golde, garnished with small diamonds and rubyes,
standing upon a hope with a smal perle pendant.
Given by therle of Arundell;
Item, two bodkynnes of golde, thone garnished with a woman on horseback an emeralde and smal perles, thother garnished with a connye sett with small sparckesof rubyes, and a rose with one small sparcke of a diamond and small sparckes of rubyes.
Geven by the Lorde Howard.

There was also this year, besides an elaborate “juell” from Leicester, another from his nephew which he probably paid for, since the younger man was always in debt:

Item, a juell of golde like a castell garnished with small diamonds
on thone side, being a potte to sett flowers in.
Geven by Mr. Phillip Sidneye. (1)

Elizabeth had certainly been behaving outrageously to her Turk. She was being influenced by very powerful men, including Leicester and Hatton. But the Howards and their confederates were merely enjoying a lull before their storm. Meanwhile Oxford’s release from the obligations of court-routine was giving him tranquillity for reflection in his Forest of Arden and freedom for writing. From the time of his imprisonment in the Tower, April-June 1581, until his return to favor in June 1583, he seems to have written eleven plays. Of these the only ones which can justly be called comedies, since Measure for Measure is less of a comedy than Cymbeline, which is called a tragedy, are As You Like It, Much Ado, and The Tempest; none of these is light-hearted: the first has overtones of sadness, with banishment its dominant note, the second is satirical, and The Tempest, based on banishment again, is anything but merry.

This is one play which we are willing to concede is not altogether the work of Oxford himself. He undoubtedly wrote most of it; but there are awkward passages which he could not have written even in his youth. The play would seem to have been finished as a tribute to the great conjurer, though it was certainly begun and carried through partial revisions by the conjurer himself.

Several literary men have been suggested as having revised or completed The Tempest, among them Bacon and the Earl of Derby. Of these, we believe that Bacon, with his utilitarian mind, was incapable of flights of the imagination or even of writing fair poetry, certainly if one is to judge by his versification of the Psalms; furthermore we not only have Macaulay’s dictum that Bacon’s reasonings were those of “a capacious rather than a subtle mind,” we have the authoritative statement of Queen Elizabeth that “Bacon hath a great wit and much learning; but in the law he showeth the uttermost of his learning, and is not deep.” (2) The man who wrote the plays and did most of the revision of this one was “deep.” In the last analysis, he was all but unfathomable.

Our suggestion, for what it is worth, is that the writer who put The Tempest into its final form, filling in bits for continuity where the author had either not reconciled different versions or had been too outspoken, was William Stanley, the Sixth Earl of Derby, whom Professor Abel Lefranc of the Académie Française has endeavored with scholarly resourcefulness to establish as the genius who concealed his identity Sous le Masque de William Shakespeare. Lady Mary Pembroke may possibly have had a hand in it. (Chap. Eighty-Six.)

There are several reasons for this belief on our part. For one thing, William Stanley was an enthusiast of the theatre, was himself a playwright, and was closely associated with Lord Oxford during the 1590’s, having married the Earl’s daughter, Lady Elizabeth Vere, in 1595. Soon after the marriage, Oxford paid a visit to the Derbys and frequently spent several weeks at a time at their house, four visits–in 1595, 1596, and 1599–being mentioned in contemporary letters. In addressing a request to her uncle, Robert Cecil, Elizabeth, Countess of Derby, makes manifest the concern her husband felt for his own players:

Being importuned by my Lord to interest your favour that his man, Browne, with his company, may not be barred from their accustomed playing, in maintenance whereof they have consumed the better part of their substance. If so vain a matter shall not seem troublesome to you, I could desire that your furtherance might be a mean to uphold them; for that my Lord taking delight in them, it will keep him from more prodigal courses.

“For that my Lord, taking delight in them. . .” Does not this expression evoke one of the gracious ladies of the dramas? In 1599, George Fanner wrote:

The Earl of Derby is busied only in penning comedies for the common stage.

This information, in the year when Lord Oxford and his wife are known to have paid the Derbys two visits, is significant. So is it also that the Countess of Derby, Oxford’s daughter, was one of the “grand possessors” of the manuscripts of the plays which were published in the First Folio, her two sisters and their husbands being the others, together, perhaps, with the Earl’s son. Of added import is the fact that Lord Derby, like his father-in-law, the Earl of Oxford, produced his plays anonymously, and that, although during the preceding year, Francis Meres had written, “The best for comedy among us be Edward Earl of Oxford,” not one play bearing his name has survived.

There is another reason why we think William Stanley may have edited The Tempest, if, indeed, he had not collaborated with Lord Oxford on a revision of it in 1595, or even been given carte blanche by the author to complete it alone. This is, that in 1595 his brother, Ferdinando Stanley, Fifth Earl of Derby, an enthusiast of the theatre, died; and we suspect he was the young Ferdinand of the first version in love with Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, who–will you, nill you–personifies the plays. Ferdinand may have become in time a composite of him and William Stanley, who married Prospero-Oxford’s real daughter. But we have no doubt in the world that in the end Ferdinand was the Fair Youth. Prospero imposing tasks upon him was Oxford disciplining him as an actor, just as Jonson shows Amorphus instructing Asotus in Cynthia’s Revels.

Prospero (aside) [speaking of Ferdinand and Miranda].
They are both in either’s powers: but this swift business
I must uneasy make, lest too light winning
Make the prize light. (I.2.447-9,)
Ferdinand. My spirits, as in a dream, are all bound up.
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
Might I but through my prison once a day
Behold this maid: all corners o’ th’ earth
Let liberty make use of; space enough
Have I in such a prison. .
Prospero (aside). It works. (I.2.483-90.)

Probably everyone agrees that The Tempest is symbolical. Some students have discovered, or have read into its text, complex ciphers and cryptograms; but these matters are beyond our concern, and they have besides, in the past, been employed to spawn so many theories with a fishy odor that they have become somewhat obnoxious. However, if a veridical cryptogram exists in the text, perhaps Bacon had, after all, a hand in the editing. He seems to have wished to relate himself to the plays; but, aside from other factors which make his authorship impossible, there is the simple obstacle of his dates. Eleven years younger than Lord Oxford, he could scarcely have written all the plays we have so far discussed before he was twenty-two.

Francis Bacon was a cousin of the Cecils and would have known Oxford intimately. One reference to him on the part of the Earl survives, in connection with a business matter in 1601, when he speaks of “my cousin Bacon.” Entries in the younger man’s notebooks paralleling so many passages in the plays would indicate an association, with the dramatist at work; he could well have heard Oxford dictating to Lyly or Munday, or the ambitious young law-student might have taken dictation himself. Spedding says that Bacon was in the habit of picking up epigrams, aphorisms, phrases, here and there, and later parading them as his own. He had here a rich source of supply and undoubtedly made the most of it: evidence of this can be found in his Promus. But when Bacon, soon after the accession of James I, wrote to John Davies, a poet who was at that time a companion of the King on a trip to Scotland, expressing the hope that the King would “be good to concealed poets,” (3) he was not talking of himself but of his distinguished kinsman.

Regarding The Tempest, which seems to embody inference within inference, pleasing, one may be sure, to the keen and robust Elizabethan intelligence, we have certain suggestions to offer, though we shall not be able to do more than sketchily indicate which parts be. longed to which years. It makes very little difference, now, just when’ Ferdinand represented William Stanley as well as Ferdinando Stanley,’ or precisely when he became the Fair Youth. After the Fair Youth appears upon the scene, his role is an all-important one.

As we interpret the dramatist’s intention, Prospero is himself, Ariel his imagination, possessing what someone has called “that omnipresence and all those constantly varying forms which are [its] special gifts.” In the immediately ensuing play he will appear in the guise of Puck. Caliban would seem to be, at least in part, the rude, untutored public: the hydra-headed, or “puppy-headed” monster, the word “monster” being used 12 times within 47 lines (II.2), dominated, in its need for a “new master,” by the Calvinists, ever trying to ban the plays, “kill” Prospero, and so on; and he is partially the play “pirates” seeking to usurp Prospero’s power on his magic island, the theatre. The attack on Miranda by Caliban is analogous to the attack on the plays by the Puritans and their efforts to bring them down to their own humorless, literal–i.e., earthbound–level; but it is also the efforts on the part of the vulgar writers and actors to appropriate the. lays for their own aggrandizement, or duplicate them in bastard copies.

Prospero. I have us’d thee,
Filth as thou art, with human care; and lodg’d thee
In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate
The honour of my child.
Caliban. Oh hot Oh hot–would it had been done!
Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans. (I.2.345-51.)

Finally, however, he declares,

I’ll be wise hereafter
And seek for grace. (V.1.294-5.)

For spiritual grace, he means, and not merely bigoted self-assertion.

Was ever genius so relentlessly ground between the upper and the nether millstone as this great Earl? Forbidden by authority to acknowledge his own work, so that it was desecrated and stolen by others, slandered by Catholics, and then harassed and obstructed by militant Protestants, with Burghley not the least influential one pulling against him, he yet persisted in following his star, in the hope that it would one day “put apparel on [his] tatter’d loving” and living.

Brandes showed true perception when he said, in regard to The Tempest, that “Never, with the exception of Hamlet and Timon, had [the author] been so personal”; and he realized that this play was another product of the “gloomy period.” A more exact word would have been intimate, for this dramatist was always personal. “Prospero,” adds Brandes, had “suffered more and lost more through ingratitude” than Timon had, not through squandering “his substance like the misanthrope, but, absorbed in occupations of a higher nature,” through having “neglected his worldly interests and fallen a victim to his own careless trustfulness.” Timon is, of course, simply the young, undeveloped Prospero: the “prime duke,” but not yet the prime conjurer.

Prospero, like many of his predecessors in the plays who represent Oxford himself, had been banished and was also, like them, beloved by the people. When Miranda asks why the King of Naples and his own usurping brother did not destroy herself and him, he replies (I.2.140-1 ):

My tale provokes that question. Dear, they durst not,
So dear the love my people bore me. . . .

We ought to take note of this and realize that the Earl is again telling us–and not for the last time–that he would surely have met with foul play had not his enemies feared a popular reaction and swift vengeance.

The dramatist states his case with candor and emotion in his scene with Miranda (I.2), where actually he is soliloquizing over work:

Miranda. If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them. . . .
Prospero. Be collected:
No more amazement. Tell your piteous heart
There’s no harm done. (1-15.)

It’s all make-believe, he assures her. Like Benedick, he has simply been devising “brave punishments” for his evil-wishers, although this time, instead of bidding the pipers “strike up,” he summons the win and causes a storm, upsetting their wicked complacency–as Oxford will do realistically enough before the year is out, in the matter his traducers.

Prospero. No harm.
I have done nothing but in care of thee,–
Of thee, my dear one! thee, my daughter!–who
Art ignorant of what thou art, naught knowing
Of whence I am; nor that I am more better
Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,
And thy no greater father.

He uses the word “art” suggestively, as in Mercutio’s pun–which Jonson considered important enough to parody–and he is saying that as playwright, he is not known as the nobleman, the “prime duke,” that he is.

When Prospero removes his mantle, remarking (1.2.25),

Lie there, my art,

he is paraphrasing Burghley, who, when laying aside his long cloak after a day’s work, would say, “Lie there, Lord Treasurer.” (4) Whatever else Lord Burghley did, he made an indelible impression upon his son-in-law’s mind.

Prospero. Twelve year since, Miranda, twelve year since,
Thy father was the Duke of Milan and
A prince of power. (52-4.)

Twelve years before–that is, in 1571–Oxford had reached his majority, had taken his seat in the House of Lords, been acclaimed as champion of his first tournament, and had married Anne Cecil, with his vast estates still intact. He was undoubtedly the Queen’s lover at this time: she had visited him at Havering of the Bowre in 1568 and was to visit him there again in 1572. He was indeed “a prince of power,” the first earl of the realm.

To Miranda’s query as to how they had been dispossessed, Prospero replies (62-3):

By foul play. . . were we heav’d thence,
But blessedly holp hither.

He means that while being deprived of his properties and his high position by “foul play,” he has been compensated by finding a blessed opportunity to practice his art. “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”

Miranda. O! my heart bleeds
To think o’ the teen that I have turn’d you to.

This speech alone would serve to disclose Miranda’s symbolic character, for the girl herself had caused her father no grief, or “teen”; he had not been banished on her account–he has certainly not said so–but because, through being too preoccupied with study and the bettering of his mind, and with his plays, he had provided his enemies with an opening which they had seized to bring about his ruin.

Prospero continues, retailing the perfidy of his “brother,” whom he had sincerely trusted. And now the old rankling, and entirely justified, grievance against Burghley comes once more to the surface, as it did in Julius Caesar, where Cassius-Burghley was Brutus-Oxford’s “brother” in enterprise.

Antonio–a name which, with Sebastian, we strongly suspect was applied later and by another hand–is, however, a composite in whom is represented the worse, the acquisitive, side of Burghley’s character. Gonzalo is introduced to portray the better side: he is called “an honest old Counsellor,” in order that his identity shall be unmistakable. Moreover, one of Burghley’s salient habits appears–his loquacious philosophizing–in the beginning of Act II, when Sebastian says (12-13):

Look, he’s winding up the watch of his wit; by and by it will strike;

while Antonio adds (24):

Fie, what a spendthrift is he of his tongue!

In this particular he is old Capulet of course, and Polonius, who will also quote Montaigne, as Gonzalo does (III. 3). The seal is set upon the characterization in the following passage (III.3.1-4):

Gonzalo. By’r lakin, I can go no further, sir;
My old bones ache: here’s a maze trod indeed,
Through forth-rights and meanders! by your patience,
I needs must rest me.

The inescapable points here are Burghley’s ill-health at this time–he suffered from gout and was obliged to remain at home for periods’ of rest–and the reference to the “maze,” which was one of the distinctive features of his famous gardens at Theobalds. (King James became so enchanted with the place that he subsequently acquired it from Burghley’s son, Sir Robert Cecil; and Gerard, the horticulturist, wrote that the King “re-created himself in the meanders compact of bays, rosemary and the like, over-shadowing his walk.”) It was in these magnificent gardens that Burghley rode about on his little mule–as shown in his well-known portrait in the Bodleian Library–when his “old bones ached” so much that he could no longer promenade as had formerly been his custom. There is, besides, a sous-entendu here. For no one was more devious in his actions than the Lord Treasurer.

But of Lord Burghley’s unfair dealings with Oxford, and his reprehensible behavior with regard to the Earl’s property, as well as to his reputation, the results of which became more painfully apparent in 1586 and notoriously so in 1588, the following passages furnish a graphic resume, as well as an ominous prophecy:

Prospero. . . . Thy false uncle,
. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .
Being once perfected how to grant suits,
How to deny them, who t’ advance, and who
To trash for over-topping; new created
The creatures that were mine, I say, or chang’d ’em,
Or else new-form’d ’em: having both the key
Of officer and office, set all hearts in the state
To what tune pleas’d his ear; that now he was
The ivy which had hid my princely trunk
And suck’d my verdure out on ‘t. (I.2.77-87.)

Presently Prospero will refer to “the dukedom yet unbow’d,” which means the Vere lineage and name, which was the “ver-dure” which the scheming “brother,” actually father-in-law, had sucked out for his own enhanced position and pecuniary gain.

This is absolute Burghley, who turned Oxford’s own employees–“servants,” as he called them, or “creatures”–to spy. upon him; who was able, through his high position, to subvert them, for he could ruin them if they did not obey his will; who had the greatest political influence–the power to “grant suits” or deny them–of anyone in the kingdom; who, as Master of Wards, managed to acquire many n.ew properties and waxed rich in lands, as Oxford, growing more and more pressed, lost one estate after another; and all this while he had charge and control of Oxford’s inheritance. Here, malgré Hume and all the others who have believed precisely what Burghley meant them to believe and have recorded precisely what he intended them to record, we have the truth, given on unimpeachable authority.

The line, “Being once perfected how to grant suits,” is striking, in view of Oxford’s request to the Lord Treasurer, in October 1583, for assistance in a “suit” the nature of which we do not know. Prospero explains that he had loved this brother “of all the world.” That Oxford had loved Burghley and had whole-heartedly thrown in his lot with that of the older man is testified to, in the letter written in September 1572, when, after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, he feared for Burghley’s safety:

And blame me not, though I am bolder with your Lordship than my custom is, for I am one that count myself a follower of yours now in all fortunes; and what shall hap to you I count it hap to myself; or at least I will make myself a voluntary partaker of it. Thus, my Lord, I humbly desire your Lordship to pardon my youth, but to take in good part my zeal and affection towards you, as one on whom I have builded my foundation either to stand or to fall. And good my Lord, think I do not this presumptuously as to advise you that am but to take advice of your Lordship, but to admonish you, as one with whom I would spend my blood and life, so much you have made me yours. And I do protest there is nothing more desired of me than so to be accounted of you.

When such trust and good faith is betrayed, it goes hard with a man of sanguine temperament and a high code of honor.

. . . that a brother should
Be so perfidious!–he whom next thyself,
Of all the world I lov’d, and to him put
The manage of my state; as at that time
Through all the signories it was the first,
And Prospero the prime duke; being so reputed
In dignity and for the liberal arts,
Without a parallel; those being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother,
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies. (67-77.)

This is straight autobiography. Lord Oxford had loved and trusted Burghley with the forthright spontaneous faith and affection of an idealistic and ardent nature. The disillusionment he suffered through this man alone was shattering to a sensitive mind. It helps to explain the poet’s progress from comedy to tragedy in his plays and to account for the tragic expression in his eyes in the Ashbourne portrait.

Who shall estimate the wrong the Philistine can, even without conceiving of himself as anything but upright, practical, and righteous, commit against a noble “brother” who is also a poet?

“Mark me,” says Prospero (88-112)–and it is Lord Oxford himself speaking:

. . . I pray thee, mark me,
I, thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated
To closeness and the bettering of my mind
With that which, but by being so retir’d,
O’erpriz’d all popular rate, in my false brother
A wak’ d an evil nature. . . .
.   .   .  .   .    .   .    .  .   .He, being thus lorded,
Not only with what my revenue yielded,

But what my power might else exact,–like one
Who having, into truth, by telling of it,
Made such a sinner of his memory
To credit his own lie,–he did believe
He was indeed the duke. . . .
. . . Hence his ambition growing,
.   .   .  .   .    .   .    .   .  .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
. . . he needs will be
Absolute Milan. Me, poor man–my library
Was dukedom large enough; of temporal royalties
He thinks me now incapable. . .
So dry he was for sway. . . .

This, we repeat, is absolute Burghley. We have already offered abundant evidence of his hypocrisy and opportunism. As William Cecil, he had entered Elizabeth’s service a poor man. Lord Oxford had become a Ward of the Crown, possessed of 86 estates. In 1590 Burghley owned 300 estates and Oxford was in debt to the sum of 22,000 pounds ($880,000) to the State, half of it to the Court of Wards. In addition the words, “He, being thus lorded. . . with. . . what my power might else exact,” is another realistic touch, since Sir William Cecil was created Lord Burghley in order that his daughter should be of sufficiently high rank to marry Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

Prospero says he had been dedicated to “the bettering of my mind With that which… O’erpriz’d all popular rate.” This is the dramatist speaking, who cared more for learning than for anything else, who even as a boy had owned a “library” of choice books, and who, without his great learning, could never have produced his great works.

Prospero’s judgment seems moderate and gentle. It was the tincture of sadness implicit in his words which called to mind the expression of Lord Oxford’s eyes in the Ashbourne portrait.

Miranda. Alack! What trouble
Was I then to you!
Prospero. O, a cherubin
Thou wast, that did preserve me! Thou didst smile,
Infused with a fortitude from heaven
When I have deck’d the sea with drops full salt,
Under my burden groan’d. (151-6.)

When, his estates dwindling, his reputation stained, his banishment ordered by Elizabeth, he had bewept his “outcast state,” he was fortified by his gift “from heaven,” his genius for the writing of plays which afforded him not only an outlet but also a profound inner satisfaction and really preserved him, kept him sane.

But he has no wish to be too harsh with Burghley. He has come through shame and suffering and has learned that people are what they are, himself as well as others, a mixture of good and bad. Thus he continues (161-8):

A noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo,
.   .   .  .   .    .   .    .   .  .   .   .   .
. . . did give us . . .
Rich garments, linens, stuffs, and necessaries,
Which since have steadied much; so, of his gentleness,
Knowing I lov’d my books, he furnish’d me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.

So, it was undoubtedly Burghley who provided Lord Oxford with the books he had read while in the Tower; and he may have sent the other “necessaries” mentioned too, for there is no record of any meals being served by the authorities to the Earl during his whole time of imprisonment.

It is with a touch of sly humor that he has Gonzalo express Burghley’s attitude towards the theatre, which he abhorred, together with all of Oxford’s associates in it, to say nothing of the money it cost him:

Gonzalo. All torment, trouble, wonder, and amazement Inhabits here. (V.1.104-5.)

And it is the same cautious old politician whose counsel was always for temporizing that Antonio speaks of when he says (II.1.287-8):

This ancient morsel, this Sir Prudence, who
Should not upbraid our course.

In a way, the conversation between Prospero and Miranda (I.2) may be said to be Oxford informing the plays, not of, but with the recent events of his life: which is exactly what he did.

Prospero. By accident most strange, bountiful Fortune,
Now my dear lady, hath mine enemies
Brought to this shore; and by my prescience
I find my zenith doth depend upon
A most auspicious star, whose influence
If now I court not, but omit, my fortunes
Will ever after droop. (178-84.)

He now has the opportunity to regain his “zenith”–his high position–by serving up his enemies and telling his story in the plays. Here, on his enchanted island, the theatre, where his imagination Ariel, may make conditions and produce effects, he can, by following the star of his genius, reveal everything in its true light. This passage is reminiscent of the “tide in the affairs of men” of Julius Caesar written not long before.

Ariel tells Prospero that they are all safe, these enemies with whom, he means to deal:

Not a hair perish’d;
On their sustaining garments not a blemish,
But fresher than before. . . . (217-19.)

After all, he deals with them kindly enough; but deal with them he must, if he is to follow his “star.”

Since there are many evidences that Oxford is thinking of his lineage, his name, which has been dishonored by his fall from his “zenith,” or high estate, it is natural to assume that he is referring here to the mullioned star of the Vere arms. And this assumption is borne out by Ariel’s appearance as a harpy. (III.3.)

Thunder and lightning. Enter A riel like a harpy; claps his wings
upon the table; and with a quaint device, the banquet vanishes.
.   .   .  .   .    .   .    .   .  .   .   .   .  .
Prospero. Bravely the figure of this harpy hast thou
Perform’d, my Ariel; a grace it had. . . .
.   .   .   .  .   .    .   .    .   .  .   .   .   .  .
My high charms work,
And these mine enemies are all knit up
In their distractions. . . . (83-90.)

The Vere coat of arms shows a Boar on one side and, on the other, a Harpy upholding a shield, in the upper left quarter of which is the five-pointed Star, and beneath, the motto, Vera Nihil Verius.

According to one commentator,

In Aeneid VI, the banquet is prohibited by a Fury, whereas in The Tempest it is prohibited by a Harpy. Virgil rarely differentiates Furies and Harpies, but. . . the Fury in the lowest region becomes the Harpy of the middle region. (5)

It is clear from Gonzalo’s speeches (II.l and III.3) that Lord Oxford had been reading Montaigne, as in Othello he showed he had. Burghley read Montaigne too, as we have said. Oxford had also been re-reading the Aeneid, it seems, and dipping into the familiar Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as well as–according to one modern classicist–Palengenius, Saint Crysostom, and the Books of Job and Isaiah, when he wrote this play. These must have been some of the volumes “furnished” him from his own library by the kindly Gonzalo-Burghley.

Gonzalo accuses Antonio and Sebastian of Howard’s and Arundel’s guilt (II.1.183-4):

You are gentlemen of brave metal: you would lift the moon out of her sphere;–

which was of course what they had plotted to do. And Prospero puts the same accusation in different language when he says to Antonio (V.1.7 5-9):

You, brother mine, that entertain’d ambition,
. . . who, with Sebastian,
.   .   .  .   .    .   .    .   .  .   .   .   .  .
Would have kill’d your king; I do forgive thee,
Unnatural though thou art;

adding later, aside to the two traitors (V.1.126-9):

But you, my brace of lords, were I so minded,
I here could pluck his highness’ frown upon you,
And justify you traitors: at this time
I will tell no tales.

The full amends he makes Burghley (V.1.62 et seq.)–if he wrote it, which we seriously doubt–beginning,

Holy Gonzalo, honourable man,
Mine eyes, even sociable to the show of thine,
Fall fellowly drops,

evidently belongs to a late revision; towards the close of Burghley’s life, Oxford seems to have been rather fond of him again–he always liked his better side–though we cannot see him calling the Fox “holy,” or using the expression “fellowly.” But, even so, he allows Sebastian to tell the truth of the Lord Treasurer’s machinations on behalf of Robert Cecil when he sardonically remarks (II.l.90-l):

I think he will carry this island home in his pocket and give it to his son for an apple;

the island, in this case, being England.

There are several name-clues in The Tempest, including an especially ingenious one (II. 1.52-7):

Gonzalo. How lush and lusty the grass .looks! how green!
The ground indeed is tawny.
Sebastian. With an eye of green in ‘t.
Antonio. He misses not much.
Sebastian. No; he doth but mistake the truth totally.

This passage brings in “green” (Ver-t) twice; “tawny,” which was the color of the Vere livery: Reading tawny; “an eye”–or an I–“of green” (Ver-t): that is to say, “I, Vere”; and the “truth” (Vere).

When Sebastian says (131-2),

            We have lost your son,
I fear, for ever,

he mean’s “for E.Vere” in the theatre. This is anticipating, however and will be understood more clearly after we have interpreted the Sonnets.

Then Pro spero announces to his assembled guests:

. . . know for certain
That I am Prospero and that very duke
Which was thrust forth of Milan. (V.I.l58-60.)

He has just informed them that he has lost his daughter “in this last tempest.” Pericles loses his daughter, Marina, in a storm; Leontes’s daughter, Perdita, is deposited upon the coast of “Bohemia” just before a storm breaks. These “daughters” too partially represent the plays.

However, there is still further significance in this tempest.


1 Nichols: Progresses; vol. II, p. 300 ff.

2 Macaulay: Lord Bacon.

3 Hookham: Will o’ the Wisp, or the Elusive Shakespeare; p. 72.

4 E.T.C.: Hidd. All.; p. 406; cit. Steevens’s quot. from Fuller’s Holy State; p. 257. Romeo says (V.3.87): “Death, lie thou there”; and Maria, throwing down the letter (T.N.:II.5.21): “Lie thou there.” And see last stanza of Lute poem, Appendix, Note 4 (2) b.

5 E.T.C.: Hidd. All.; p. 421; quot. Colin Still: Sh.’s Mystery Play; p. 32.

Contents | Chapter Forty-Two