Queen Elizabeth’s Master Showman Shakes a Spear in Her Defense
Revealing Sidelights on a Dramatic Chapter in the Life History of the Poet Earl of Oxford, Now Reproduced for the Study of Members of The Shakespeare Fellowship
Copyright 1947 by Charles Wisner Barrell
First published in The Shakespeare Fellowship Quarterly, Spring 1947.
THROUGH THE COURTESY of its owner, Mr. Carl H. Pforzheimer of New York, internationally known collector of rare editions of English literature, the Editors of the QUARTERLY gratefully acknowledge the privilege of reprinting the only copy that has ever been discovered of an exceedingly interesting exhibit of Oxford-Shakespeare evidence.
This is the long-sought sweet speech or Oration, spoken at the Tryumphe at White-hall before her Maiestie, by the Page to the right noble Earle of Oxenforde.
Although first printed in 1592 for Cuthbert Burbie, a bookseller who issued three of the Shakespeare plays, in quarto form, including the stolen memory version called The Taming of A Shrew, the Sweet Speech can be clearly shown to have been spoken on January 22, 1581 at the last public tournament in which Lord Oxford took part—and proved himself a champion of champions.
To the impressive mass of contemporary, factual documentation relating to the personality and manifold talents of the 17th Earl of Oxford, which has been assembled at great pains and expense since the late J. Thomas Looney first presented the mysterious literary nobleman’s claims to consideration as the real “William Shake-speare” in “Shakespeare” Identified (1920), Mr. Pforzheimer’s unique copy of the Sweet Speech is a most valuable and significant addition. Especially noteworthy is the brief but realistic description of the dramatic and imaginative setting in which the Speech was delivered.
Here, it will be seen, the poet-athlete Earl not only justifies his reputation as the premier “spearshaker” of his heyday, but again takes precedence as a master showman on “the banks of Thames.” just as he did ten years previous to 1581 on the banks of the River Avon in Warwickshire when he played a leading part in a thrilling military pageant—to the Queen’s “great pleasure.” (1)
The literary accompaniment to this January 1581 tournament spectacle, shows Oxford to be dramatizing his own personality and the trials and tribulations that were his in the weeks of late December 1580—immediately preceding. At the Christmas season, as all readers of Ward’s Seventeenth Earl of Oxford will recall. Oxford had made a vain effort to warn Elizabeth of the traitorous plans and practices of his erstwhile intimates, Lord Henry Howard and Sir Charles Arundell. Although history has amply proved that Oxford was right, and that both Howard and Arundell actually were secret agents and pensioners of Spain in Philip II’s efforts to invade England, both conspirators stood so well with Elizabeth that the Queen at first refused to credit Oxford’s charges, and put him in the Tower for a day or so to underscore her disbelief in his good faith. Very shortly after, she received enough corroborating testimony of the guilt of the accused favorites to release Oxford—while keeping Howard and Arundell in closer confinement.
Nevertheless, the patriotic Earl had suffered considerable loss of personal prestige by the contretemps, and was smarting sorely from the effects of his misunderstood and unwelcome zeal in defense of the realm when the Sweet Speech was written. His appearance in the lists on this occasion was not undertaken merely in sport, by any manner of means. He was out to justify his “faith and truth” before the English public according to the ancient and honorable usages of chivalry. At the same time, the whole underlying theme of the Sweet Speech allegory is distinctly autobiographical and of the most serious personal intent.
These facts lend unusual significance to the publication. We see, just as numerous students of the poet-dramatist nobleman’s career have contended for years, that Lord Oxford, like Montaigne, gave expression to his own adventures, thoughts and aspirations in artistic form. It does not really matter whether the Earl himself actually put pen to paper to compose the final draft of the Sweet Speech, as we have it or whether that was done by his private secretary, John Lyly, or by one of his other literary protégés, such as Anthony Munday or Thomas Watson. The whole argument and the characterizations throughout are intimately personal to Oxford. The style of expression is euphuistic enough to indicate Lyly’s surface workmanship. But in speaking of Lyly’s writings, Gabriel Harvey states that “young Euphues (Lyly) hatched the eggs that his elder friends laid.” (2) The longtime association of Lyly with Oxford, and a host of revealing circumstances growing out of that association, have led many students of the matter to the conviction that Oxford actively collaborated with his secretary-stage manager. By the same token, several of the Shakespeare comedies display euphuistic patterns. And it is especially noteworthy to find the Sweet Speech filled throughout with the Bard’s favorite imagery and phraseology, while “‘Shakespeare’s” distinctively autobiographical approach dominates the whole.
As previously intimated, Cuthbert Burbie, the London bookseller who issued this work, did not always bother to secure legal license to put his wares into print. Nor, it is quite apparent, were his activities governed by the wishes of the actual owners of several historically important manuscripts which he surreptitiously ushered into public sale. His piratical handling of the memory-paraphrase of The Taming of the Shrew in 1594 has been mentioned. Curiously enough, this interesting counterfeit was licensed by the wardens of the Stationers’ Company. But in 1598 when Burbie put forth A Pleasant Conceited Comedie Called Loves Labors Lost as “Newly corrected and augmented By W. Shakespere,” it was without legal blessing. Neither did he obtain license to publish the second (and first verbally coherent) quarto of Romeo and Juliet in 1599. Incidentally, he had also published John Lyly’s comedy of Mother Bombie—minus the author’s name—during the great piratical raid on theatrical properties that took place in 1594.
Excepting the “maimed and deformed” version of the Shrew, most of the works bearing Cuthbert Burbie’s imprint seem to have been printed from true manuscript copies. Burbie quite evidently had connections that gave him occasional access to the manuscript files of important authors, whose personal wishes regarding publication could be (and frequently were) flouted with impunity by the buccaneering crew that then dominated the Elizabethan book trade. It is worth noting that Burbie published Gabriel Harvey’s final attack upon Nash, The Trimming of Thomas Nash, in 1597. His professional association with the prying and unethical Doctor, whose personal spite against Lord Oxford and his whole literary circle is well known, might explain how Burbie secured some of his manuscripts.
The Sweet Speech came into print as an addition to the first book that Cuthbert Burbie entered for license on the Stationers’ Register, May 1, 1592. This was entitled Axiochus. A most excellent Dialogue, written in Greek by Plato the Phylosopher: concerning the shortness and uncertainty of this life, with the contrary ends of the good and wicked. The title-page of the volume further states that it is Translated out of the Greek by Edw. (sic) Spenser. And then (although no mention of the matter is made in the copyright entry) the title-page goes on to say that Heerto is annexed a sweet speech or Oration, spoken at the Tryumphe at White-hall before her Maiestie, by the Page to the right noble Earle of Oxenforde. The letter-press of the Sweet Speech has been further proved to be by a different printer than the one who did the work on the Axiochus for Burbie, being a separate eight-page “signature” at the end of the volume. These facts indicate that it was deviously acquired and put forth without the knowledge or consent of the Earl of Oxford.
Finally, that the literary Earl or his representatives took means to suppress the publication seems apparent when we find that of the two known copies of Axiochus, only the one acquired by Mr. Pforzheimer in 1936 contains the Sweet Speech. And even this is somewhat mutilated at a crucial point in the narrative, as will be seen.
The text we are now privileged to publish is transcribed from the photographic facsimile which appears in Volume III of the magnificent illustrated folio catalogue of The Carl H. Pforzheimer Library, English Literature, 1475-1700, issued in 1940 under the editorial supervision of William, A. Jackson—at $50.00 per volume.
For the convenience of our readers generally we have slightly modernized the spelling of this quaint and charming dramatization of an exciting chapter in the life story of Edward de Vere. Many keen minds will herein recognize the true Shakespearean characteristics he displays as a tournament champion.
A SPEECH SPOKEN AT THE TRYUMPH
BEFORE THE QUEEN’S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTIE,
BY THE PAGE 3 TO THE RIGHT NOBLE CHAMPION,
THE EARL OF OXENFORD.
BY THE TILT stood a statelie Tent of Orange tawny Taffeta, curiously embroydered with Silver, & pendants on the Pinnacles very slightly to behold. From forth this Tent came the noble Earl of Oxenford in rich gilt Armour, and sat down under a great high Bay-tree, the whole stock, branches and leaves whereof were all gilded over, that nothing but Gold could be discerned. By the Tree stood twelve tilting staves, all which likewise were gilded clean over. After a solemn sound of most sweet Musique, he mounted on his Courser, verie richly caparisoned, when his page ascending the stairs where her Highness stood in the window, delivered to her by speech this Oration following.
THIS KNIGHT (most fair and fortunate Princess) living of a long time in a Grove, where every graft being green, he thought every root to be precious, found at the last as great diversity of troubles as of Trees: the Oak to be so stubborn that nothing could cause it to bend: the Reed so shaking, that every blast made it to bow; the Juniper sweet, but too low for succour; the Cypress fair, but without fruit; the Walnut tree to be as unwholesome to lie under, as the bud of the Fig-tree unpleasant to taste; the Tree that bore the best fruit, to be fullest of Caterpillars, and all to be infected with worms; the Ash for Ravens to breed; the Elm to build: the Elder to be full of pith and no perfection, and all Trees that were not fertile, to be fit for fuel, and they that were fruitful, but for the time to please the fancy. Which trying, he forsook the wood, and lived a while in the plain Champion: where, how he was tormented, it were too long to tell, but let this suffice, that he was troubled, when every Moat fell in his eye in the day, and every Ant disquieted him in the night: where, if the wind blew, he had nothing to shield him but head and shoulders, if the Sun blazed, he could find the shadow of nothing but himself, when seeing himself so destitute of help, he became desperate of hope.
Thus wandering a weary way, he espied at the last a Tree so beautiful, that his eyes were dazzled with the brightness, which as he was going unto, he met by good fortune a Pilgrim or Hermit, he knew not well, who being apparelled as though he were to travel into all Countries, but so aged as though he were to live continually in a Cave. Of this old Sire he demanded what Tree it was, who taking this Knight by the hand, began in these words both to utter the name and nature of the Tree.
This Tree fair Knight is called the Tree of the Sun, whose nature is always to stand alone, not suffering a companion, being it self without comparison: of which kind, there are no more in the earth than Suns in the Element. The world can hold but one Phoenix, one Alexander, one Sun-Tree, in top contrarie to all Trees: it is strongest, & so statelie to behold, that the more other shrubs shrink for duty, the higher it exalteth it self in Majestie.
For as the clear beams of the Sun, cause all the stars to lose their light, so the brightness of this golden Tree, eclipseth the commendation of all other Plants. The leaves of pure Gold, the bark no worse, the buds pearls, the body Chrisocolla, the Sap Nectar, the root so noble as it springeth from two Turkeies (4) (Turquoises), both so perfect, as neither can stain the other, each contending once for superiority, and now both constrained to be equals. Vestas birth sitteth in the midst, whereat Cupid is ever drawing, but dares not shoot, being amazed at the princely and perfect Majesty.
The shadows hath as strange properties as contrarieties, cooling those that be hot with a temperate calm, and heating those that be cold with a moderate warmth, not unlike that Sun whereof it taketh the name, which melteth Wax, and hardeneth Clay, or pure fire, which causeth the gold to shine, and the straw to smother, or sweet perfumes, which feedeth the Bee, and killeth the Beetle.
No poison commeth near it, nor any vermin that hath a sting. Who so goeth about to lop it, lanceth himself, and the Sun will not shine on that creature that casteth a false eye on that Tree, no wind can so much as wag a leaf, it springeth in spite of Autumnus and continueth all the year as it were Ver.
If, Sir Knight you demand what fruit it beareth, I answer, such, as the elder it is, the younger it seemeth, always ripe, yet ever green. Virtue, Sir Knight, more nourishing to honest thoughts, than the beauty delightful to amorous eyes; where the Graces are as thick in virtue, as the Grapes are on the Vine.
This fruit fatteneth, but never feeds, wherewith this Tree is so loaden, as you cannot touch that place which virtue hath not tempered. If you enquire whether any grafts may be gotten, it were as much as to crave slips of the Sun, or a Mould to cast a new Moon. To conclude, such a Tree as it is, as he hath longest known it, can sooner marvel at it than describe it, for the further he wadeth in the praise, the shorter he cometh of the perfection.
This old man having ended, seeming to want words to express such worthiness, he went to his home, and the Knight to his Sun Tree, where kissing the ground with humilitie, the princely tree seemed with . . . . to bid him welcome. But the more . . . . zed on the beauty, the less able he w. . dure the brightness, like unto those th. . . . king with a steadfast eye to behold th. . . . brings a dark dazzling over their sight.
At the last, resting under the shadow, he felt such content, as nothing could be more comfortable. The days he spent in virtuous delights, the night slipped away in golden Dreams; he was never annoyed with venomous enemies, nor disquieted with idle cogitations.
Insomuch, that finding all felicity in that shade, and all security in that Sun: he made a solemn vow, to incorporate his heart into that Tree, and engraft his thoughts upon those virtues, Swearing, that as there is but one Sun to shine over it, one root to give life unto it, one top to maintain Majesty: so there should be but one Knight, either to live or die for the defence thereof. Where-upon, he swore himself only to be the Knight of the Tree of the Sun, whose life should end before his loyaltie.
Thus cloyed with content, he fell into a sweet slumber, whose smiling countenance showed him void of all care. But his eyes were scarce closed when he seemed to see dy . . . . dermining the
Tree behind him, that . . . er suspecting the Knight to give the . . . . , might have punished him in her . . . . t failing of their pretence, and seeing owe they struck to light upon their own brains, they threatened him by violence, whom they could not match in virtue.
But in clasping the Tree, as the only Anchor of his trust, they could not so much as move him from his cause, whom they determined to martyr without colour. Whereupon, they made a challenge to win the Tree by right, and to make it good Arms. At which saying the Knight being glad to have his Truth tried with his valor, for joy awakened.
And now (most virtuous and excellent Princess) seeing such tumults towards for his Tree, such an Honourable presence to judge, such worthy Knights to Joust: I cannot tell whether his perplexitie or his pleasure be the greater. But this he will avouch at all assays himself to be the most loyal Knight of the Sun-tree, which who so gain-sayeth he is here pressed, either to make him recant it before he run, or repent it after. Offering rather to die upon the points of a thousand Lances, than to yield a jot in constant loyaltie.
The speech being ended, with great honour he ran, and valiantly brake all the twelve staves. And after the finishing of the sports: both the rich Baytree, and the beautiful Tent, were by the standersby, torn and rent in more pieces than can be numbered.
Contemporary corroborative evidence, fixing the exact date upon which this historic tournament was held, and fully identifying the chief contestants, is listed in Jackson’s editorial notes on the Sweet Speech in the Pforzheimer catalogue.
The general challenge of jousts was issued on Twelfth Night (January 6th), 1581 by Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. This young nobleman, then approaching his 24th year, was the eldest son and heir of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk who had been attainted of treason and beheaded June 2, 1572 for plotting marriage with Mary Queen of Scots. Young Arundel was also the nephew of Lord Henry Howard, the Spanish secret agent whose machinations Oxford had exposed to the Queen late in December 1580, with unfortunate results to himself. Sir Charles Arundell, included in Oxford’s indictment, although of Howard blood on the maternal side, was a distant cousin of the youthful Earl of Arundel. Now Philip Howard, while debarred by his father’s attainder from succeeding to the title and estates of the Duke of Norfolk was in February 1580, was allowed to inherit the Earldom of Arundel upon the death of his maternal grandfather, Henry Fitz Alan, 12th Earl of Arundel. The latter had at one time been a serious suitor for the hand of Queen Elizabeth. As a natural consequence of the deathly atmosphere of disloyal intrigue, suspicion and frustration which haunted the Howard wing of his ancestral house, young Arundel was obviously eager to assert and seek to prove by the traditional test of knightly honor his own loyalty to the Tudor sovereignty. An appropriate occasion for such a public gesture was presented by Lord Oxford’s sensational denunciation of Arundel’s favorite uncle and known mentor, Lord Henry Howard.
The Earl of Oxford himself had rather close family ties with this fatefully tragic branch of the Howard clan. His father’s sister, Frances Vere, had married Henry Howard, the unfortunate poet Earl of Surrey (beheaded by Henry VIII), and was the mother of both the Duke of Norfolk (beheaded by Elizabeth) and Lord Henry Howard, the Spanish agent. Oxford’s intimacy with Norfolk and Lord Henry had twice brought him to the brink of personal disaster, as the records show. He had every reason to distrust his Howard cousins generally. And there seems little doubt that he suspected young Philip of Arundel of being implicated at this time—at least passively—in the smooth-spoken Lord Henry’s dangerous practices. Later on, it will be recalled, this same Earl of Arundel was himself attainted of treason, and died a prisoner in the Tower of London.
In any event, Lord Oxford lost no time in answering the challenge published by the Earl of Arundel under the pseudonym of “Callophisus.” Oxford does not appear to have followed Arundel’s lead in printing his acceptance of the gage to combat. But there is a copy of his reply among the Lansdowne Manuscripts in the British Museum, which has been included in the Malone Society Collections, I.2. pp. 186-7.
It is entitled, “Answer of the Knight of the Tree of the Sun.” And while obviously addressed to Arundel as “Callophisus,” in accordance with the etiquette governing such contests, Oxford takes pains to sign himself “Affronter to the redd.” This means that he has chosen as his first opponent “The Red Knight” or Sir William Drury, Arundel’s senior co-challenger, and a famous “veteran of many jousts—both sporting and on the grimmer fields of war.
“The White Knight,” mentioned by Oxford as one w ho has first claim to the attempt to teach Callophisus “his fault,” is none other than Sir Philip Sidney, (5) who ran on Oxford’s side of the barriers that day, as Arundel’s chief opponent. It is interesting to note how specifically Oxford calls attention to Sidney’s “zeal and worthiness”—while maintaining the customary fiction of his colleague’s anonymity. After all the reams of exaggerated nonsense that have been written about the dreadful feud that existed between Sidney and Oxford as a result of their 1579 exchange of irritated exclamations on the tennis court, it will probably amaze many of Sidney’s most ardent partisans to find these two geniuses apparently on the best of personal terms and batting on the same team a little more than a year later! So explodeth another of the favorite Elizabethan myths-fostered by Oxford’s enemies and parroted down the ages, by historians who do not bother to consult the cooler views of the principals.
The literary Earl’s acceptance of the Arundel challenge runs as follows:
Answer of the Knight of the Tree of the Sun
Callophisus as it seems more covetous of glorie than able to merit, hath put his challenge to the print, but not his virtue to the proof. Yet to shadow his imperfection he hath covered himself under the wings of the most perfectest, for whom each would adventure: but against whom none will lift his lance. But whereas he vaunts himself to honor her above all, to love more, and serve more than any besides, this is so far beyond his compass, as the white knight (Sidney) is above him in zeal and worthiness, who albeit to me he be unknown, I praise his attempt wishing he had chosen a fitter day, wherein he might have had full means to have taught Callophisus his fault, and the worthiest wight have showed his desire to honor her whom he serveth in loyaltie. Wherefore as a friend to his mind and any other that in honor of that rare mistress which is accomplished with virtue’s perfection and everie good quality which may enrich a mortal creature with immortal praise, being of none other to be spoken or understood but of her self, I mean to try my truth with no less valor than I have desire(,) not minding to disorder so noble a presence, but rather to entertain the same with a longer abode by diversity & change of arms, and to join with this worthie white night (Sidney), if the next day may be given to the sword, as the former challenge is to the lance: not wandering from the rules of arms, neither wronging the rest of the defendants of which it is to be thought manie will make proof of their loyalties, as pleasure to their ladie. And as for Callophisus I know not whether the Redd knight (Drury) having added a little to his challenge, hath not taken away a great part of his honor. But whereas either of them seem absolute preferers of themselves before all others in loyaltie, love, and worthiness, I must say and do avow, I am of a far contrarie opinion, and think either of them to be as unfit to usurp the title of her servants, as she worthie to be mistress of the world; as void of loyaltie, merit, valor and love, as she is complete with wisdom grace beautie and eloquence. Their works be as far less than their words, as their praise is short of her worth. And in this am I to assist the white knight unknown to me against the red knight in all points of arms that either the place will suffer, time permit, or Companie allow, and for the rest of his bragging words they, may supply the want of his works. They nothing . . . appertain to me who presume nothing, of myself, in respect of mine assurance in my mistress’s virtue, and excellencie upon whose face their eyes are unworthie to look.
The Knight of the Tree of the Sun
Affronter to the redd.
(Endorsed by another hand:)
“The knight of ye tree of ye Sonne.”
In the same folio section of the Lansdowne Manuscripts from which the above is taken will be found Sir Philip Sidney’s reply to Arundel’s challenge, written in Sidney’s characteristically personal style, and ending as follows:
“Subscribed by him who in arms will be readie to avouch that which his pen hath here written this XVth of January 1580. (Old style.)
“Thy adversary the White Knight.”
* * *
Contemporary references to this spirited and spectacular trial at arms are to be found in the records of the Master of the Revels for 1581: in the Cecil family papers; in The Booke of Honor and Arms (1590); and finally in Holinshed’s Chronicles, Vol. IV, p. 434 (1808 edition).
The Revel’s account, as reproduced by Feuillerat, p. 326, reads:
A challendge at the Tilte proclaymed on twelf nighte and performed by therle of Arundle the XXIIth of Ianuary following during all which tyme the master of the Revells attended for the presenting of diverse devises which happened in that meane season.
The Booke of Honor and Armes, gives the names of the chief contestants, and states, “The prize was given to the Earle of Oxford.” It should he noted that although this volume is credited to Sir William Seager, internal evidence against that attribution has led many bibliographers to the opinion that it was originally compiled by Oxford’s friend and literary protege. Thomas Bedingfield, who in 1572-3 translated Cardan’s Comforte, i.e., “Hamlet’s Book” at Oxford’s request.
But perhaps the most interesting commentary extant on this famous tournament is to be found in Holinshed under the captions “AN. Dom. 1581 . . . Jousting at Westminster“:
Whereas a great challenge of jousts was signified by way of devise before her majestie on Twelfth night last past, to have been performed the fifteenth day of January, her majesty’s pleasure was for divers considerations the same should be deferred until the two and twentieth day of the same month; on which day the same was most courageously accomplished in the accustomed place at Westminster, where many staves (lances) were valiantly broken, but through the great concourse of people thither repairing, many of the beholders, as well men as women, were sore hurt, some maimed, and some killed, by falling of the scaffolds overcharged.
The extraordinary interest of the London public in this particular tournament bears witness to the popularity and showmanship of its star performer. It also hints of a general understanding that issues involving more than the competitive spirit of sporting honor were involved. So, at the end of the contest, when Oxford stood on the gallery of “The Castle of Perfect Beautie,” as the royal pavillion at the northern end of the Tiltyard at Whitehall was called, with the Queen’s much-coveted prize in his hands and her kiss on his lips, he was unquestionably at the zenith of contentment and courtly favor—the observed of all observers.
His spears had been valiantly shaken to the honor of his sovereign and in rehabilitation of his own good name—splintered on the bodies of adversaries in more well-aimed hits than any other contestant could match. The broken spear (signifying a disabled enemy) which the lion of his Bulbeck crest displays, had again been justified in the rough and tumble of a dangerous charade. He was indeed the veritable “Shake-speare” of popular acclaim—and who can question his hard-won right to that pseudonym?
And so we should like to take leave of him—basking in the radiance of his living Sun-Tree, acknowledging plaudits, jovially urging on the souvenir-mad spectators in the trampled field below as they tear the golden tree and his silver-embroidered tent to shreds for keepsakes of his triumph.
But . . . only two months later to the day, his Sun-Queen’s smiles are to curdle into the bitter grimaces of a woman’s jealous rage as she orders her dashing champion to be hunted down like a common felon—and cast again into the Tower. And this time he is not to be given a mere over-night lesson for ruffling her composure with news of Spanish plotters undermining her authority. This time he is to be securely bolted in where the dogs won’t bite him. For “Shake-speare” has committed an offense that ranks among the most serious in her Virgin Majesty’s books:
While protesting the undying loyalty of his love for Elizabeth, he has thoughtlessly begotten a son of one of her women of the bedchamber.
It is the young Dark Lady from Yorkshire called Anne Vavasor, a country cousin of the Howards he has found so hateful. In fear of her life, Anne has confessed all—and has given the unwelcome brat his father’s name of Edward Vere. So off to prison all must go!
But “Shake-speare” himself will later have much to say of these dramatic events and their repercussions, and of his own blameful relationship to all parties concerned, in a play entitled Measure for Measure and the book of Sonnets, “among his private friends,” a volume destined to drive generations of beetle-browed “experts” mad—seeking the life-key to its dramatis personae.
Oxford’s Shakespearean Hand Apparent
In the 1581 Tournament Documents
It can be repeated with categorical assurance that both the printed allegory of the Sweet Speech and the transcribed manuscript of Oxford’s Answer of the Knight of the Tree of the Sun contain numerous examples of literary imagery, identical with those expressing Shakespeare’s reactions to similar personalities and situations.
There are far too many of these metaphorical parallels to be reproduced in the space now available. Just a few, chosen at random, should suffice for the time being to indicate the graphic validity of the correspondency as a whole.
* * *
The comparison of Queen Elizabeth to a beautiful and majestic tree is one of the Bard’s favorite devices in describing royal and noble personages, such as Warwick, in 3 Henry VI, V. 2. 14:
Thus yields the cedar to the axe’s edge,
Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle,
Under whose shade the ramping lion slept,
Whose top-branch overpeer’d Jove’s spreading tree.
And kept low shrubs from winter’s powerful wind.
“Jove’s spreading tree” is the golden oak symbolizing the monarchy which Warwick, as “Kin-maker,” at times dwarfed.
Also, when Warwick in the same play recounts the love of Edward IV for the French King’s sister, he uses the imagery of Oxford’s Sweet Speech:
Myself have often heard him say and swear
That this his love was an eternal plant,
Whereof the root was fix’d in virtue’s ground,
The leaves and fruit maintain’d with beauty’s sun.
And in Romeo and Juliet (I. 1. 158) old Montague refers to his lovesick son
As is the bud bit with an envious worm,
Ere he can spread his sweet leaves in the air,
Or dedicate his beauty to the sun.
Throughout Richard II, the Plantagenet dynasty is compared to a grove of trees, blighted by destiny. And when the downfall of Richard and his parasitical “caterpillars” is made known in the vernacular of the gardeners in Act III, Scene 4, a striking analogy to the opening imagery of the Sweet Speech, where Elizabeth’s Court is described as an arboretum, is immediately apparent.
So we could continue at great length, for, as Caroline Spurgeon states in Shakespeare’s Imagery, trees and plants provide the Bard with more of his humanized metaphors in the plays she has analyzed than any other objects in nature.
Nor are the present parallels we find between the Oxford documents and the Shakespeare writings confined to one general type of imagery. Here is a most interesting example of parallelism wherein one of the playful, passing conceits of the Sweet Speech has been worked up into full picturization by the mature master:
If you enquire whether any grafts may be gotten, it were as much as to crave slips of the Sun or a Mould to cast a new Moon.
(One of the favorite Court nicknames for Elizabeth was Cynthia, the moon goddess, or “the mortal moon” of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.)
So, in Venus and Adonis, 727-32:
Now of this dark night I perceive the reason:
Cynthia for shame obscures her silver shine,
Till forging Nature he condemn’d of treason,
For stealing moulds from heaven that were divine;
Wherein she framed thee, in high heaven’s despite,
To shame the sun by day and her by night.
Modesty forbids direct citation of graphic jousting imagery as this poem also yields in lines 595-600, and elsewhere.
The whole creative thought and imagery of Shake-speare’s Sonnet 25 can be seen to be expressive of Lord Oxford’s identical situation during his exile from Court circles, when his great tournament triumph of 1581 was blasted by the affair with Anne Vavasor, and he finally found himself relegated to the quiet of simple domesticity:
Let those who are in favor with their stars
Of public honor and proud titles boast.
Whilst I whom fortune of such triumph bars
Unlookt for joy in that I honor most;
Great Princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread,
But as the Marygold at the sun’s eye,
And in them-selves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famouséd for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honor razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d.
Then happy I that love and am beloved.
Where I may not remove, nor be removed.
We have referred to Miss Spurgeon’s Imagery. It is a valuable work—as far as it goes. And, as Dr. Bénézet has pointed out, provides a great deal more evidence to prove that the Poet was an hereditary member of the ruling class than the hustling go-getter of Stratford-on-Avon. Young apprentices to the trade of butchering who are forced to take on the extra responsibilities of married life at the age of eighteen, can hardly be supposed (except in the realms of Stratfordian mythology) to cultivate an intimate knowledge of blooded horses, hounds, hunting hawks, and all the trappings of leisured sport such as Miss Spurgeon’s Bard displays. Moreover, it should be emphasized that Miss Spurgeon’s study of the Shakespeare metaphors is confined to only five of the plays, viz.: Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, As You Like It, Macbeth, and A Winter’s Tale. In other words, she samples a mere fraction of the output, leaving thirty-two plays and three books of poetry for others to analyze in future lifetimes. Vast and vital areas of the Poet’s most intimate interests are thus unexplored by her method. It would be patently absurd, therefore, to accept Miss Spurgeon’s study as anything more than a preliminary chapter to a monumental task—still to be done.
For instance, Shakespeare’s knowledge of the technique of jousting, and his command of the phraseology developed by that sport is extensive, accurate and of a distinctly personal nature. Yet this highly significant circumstance is not covered by Miss Spurgeon, and has been overlooked by the commentators generally in their efforts to promote the stock Stratfordian fables. We have time for only two examples, but both bear the impress of the playwright Earl of Oxford’s firsthand experience and observation.
In As You Like It (III. 4. 37), Celia, who has voluntarily fled Court circles with her cousin Rosalind, characterizes Orlando in the distinct terms of the tiltyard:
O that’s a brave man! he writes brave verses, speaks brave words, swears brave oaths, and breaks them bravely, quite traverse, athwart the heart of his lover; as a puisny tilter, that spurs his horse but on one side, breaks his staff like a noble goose. But all’s brave that youth mounts and folly guides.
(In tilting, to strike an opponent with a spear “traverse” or across the body was considered foul and unskillful. So the term “across” or “traverse” in Elizabethan Court slang—and in Shakespeare’s plays—refers to speech or action which today might be called “hitting below the belt.” Puisny —pronounced puny—was the technical term for a novice tilter; also for a junior or inferior judge. To spur a horse on but one side was to slew him off the straight career, which led to the “traverse” fouling of the opposing jouster.)
Again, in Much Ado About Nothing (V. 1. 133), Benedick and his companions rag each other in tournament slang:
Sir, I shall meet your wit in the career, an you charge it against me. I pray you, choose another subject.
Nay, then give him another staff: this last was broke cross.
By this light, he changes more and more: I think he be angry indeed.
If he be, he knows how to turn his girdle.
Shall I speak a word in your ear?
God bless me from a challenge.
(“By this light” refers to the restricted view of a tilter, peering through the narrow slit of his helmet. And “to turn his girdle” signifies a contestant’s desire to make a really serious defense of his honor.)
The Arundel-Arundell Mix-Up
Following Mr. Pforzheimer’s facsimile publication of the Sweet Speech, the only serious discussions of this rare and revealing document appear to have centered in an effort to attribute its writing to Anthony Munday who was at this period one of Lord Oxford’s literary proteges—along with Lyly, Churchyard and Watson. We would agree with Professor Jackson, however, that if Oxford himself did not hold the pen, his euphuistic secretary, John Lyly undoubtedly did.
The chief proponent of Munday is Professor Marshall W. S. Swan of the English Department of Tufts. One of the 1944 issues of E L H: Journal of English Literary History, contains Professor Swan’s arguments. Whatever value they may have aspired to in the field of scholarly speculation is vitiated for logically-minded Oxfordians, however, by an astounding error which Swan falls into when he misidentifies the Challenger of the 1581 Tournament as Charles Arundell, the accused Spanish agent. It is regrettable that so noted a student of the history and literature of the Shakespearean Age as Professor Swan is, should not have certified the personalities of which he undertakes to inform us. Nor is it easy to excuse such blunders when accurate documentation covering the Elizabethans in question is amply available in Jackson’s notes on the Sweet Speech, in Ward’s Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, and elsewhere. It is not difficult, on the other hand, to understand how such mistakes occur when most of the English professors in our colleges take pride in knowing as little as possible about the men and events that figure in the real life drama of the poet Earl of Oxford. Professor Swan’s mistake quite apparently has grown out of his zealous endeavor to make Oxford the real villain in the unfortunate train of events that exploded in December 1580. Incidentally his carelessness extends to the point of having Oxford in disgrace for the birth of his illegitimate son two months before that contretemps occurred. Swan’s curious compilation of fact and fiction begins, with his statement that during the Christmas season,
“(Oxford) betrayed his friends and associates to the queen as being Catholics, conspirators against the state, and Spanish sympathizers. Among this group were many friends of the queen including Lord Howard and Charles Arundel. Much against her will she was forced to have them all placed under restraint. They were soon able, however, ingeniously to clear themselves of conspiracy charges. Furthermore, because they assumed approval of the marriage with Anjou, the queen was willing to close her eyes to the Catholic situation. Oxford thereby found himself in the embarrassing spot of having sold out his friends, only to be left unsupported by the queen and the French ambassador, who had no intention of playing politics at this critical moment. The counter charges, commitments to the Tower, Oxford’s being ‘soon set at liberty,’ only to be returned ‘again in the Tower for forgetting himself with one of the Queen’s Maids of Honour, who is in the Tower likewise’ are all well known facts. Thus by early January 1581, the Earl of Oxford was in disgrace.
“To help restore his own weakened reputation, Arundel, using the name Callophisus, challenged all comers to a tilt at which he would defend the honor and virtue of the queen. This ‘Challenge of lustes’ was printed by Charlewood in a broadside.”
We have already fully and accurately identified from contemporary records, including the Howard genealogy, the actual challenger in this historic trial at arms as Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel.
His distant cousin, Sir Charles Arundell, whose traitorous connections Oxford had exposed for the best of patriotic reasons (and not merely because this sinister figure happened to be a Roman Catholic) (6) was under restraint when Swan has him posing as the challenger, Callophisus.
The letter written from London by Mendoza, the Spanish Ambassador, to the King of Spain, under date of January 9, 1581 (and reproduced by Ward on page 215 of his biography of Oxford), explicitly states that “Lord Howard, brother of the Duke of Norfolk, and . . . Charles Arundel” have “been taken to the Tower” since their arrest at the order of the Queen.
Other letters, bearing Charles Arundell’s own signature, which appear among the correspondence of Sir Christopher Hatton (Oxford’s avowed enemy) contain bitter complaints of the harshness and length of the writer’s imprisonment, while “Ox,” the cause of all his troubles, enjoys full freedom “to graze in the pastures.”
Much other testimony proves that Charles Arundell never regained Court favor from the time he was taken into custody on the information supplied by Oxford. When finally released three years later, he quietly slipped out of England and soon appears in the Spanish government records as a salaried agent of Philip II. All of these facts have been readily ascertainable for many years. And it seems a pity that Professor Swan didn’t look into the Ward biography a little more closely before switching the personalities of the Earl of Arundel and his black sheep cousin to the needless confusion of readers of the Journal of English Literary History. For while such unskillful legerdemain may make the irreverent laugh, it cannot but make the judicious grieve.
Moreover, Charles Arundell deserves adequate identification in his own person and deeds, for though the reverse of an admirable character, he obviously does play a dramatically important role in the life history of the greatest creative artist the English-speaking peoples have ever produced.
Shakespeare’s knowledge of undercover spies and double-dealing conspirators evidently traces to personal contact with such as the voluble Arundell. And in the counter-charges which the latter brought against Oxford, we have significant testimony as to the literary Earl’s imaginative powers as a “most notable liar.” One of the three after-dinner whoppers that Arundell seriously sets forth to the discredit of “this monstrous Earl” concerns Oxford’s own account of his participation, during his Italian travels, in a great civil strife that developed from the “discord and disunion in the city of Genoa between two families.” Arundell does not repeat the names of the feuding houses. But Oxford himself later mentions them as “Montague” and “‘Capulet”—and switches the locale to Verona.
The now generally admitted author of that Elizabethan masterpiece of muck-raking scandal, Leycester’s Commonwealth, Sir Charles Arundell was the brother of Sir Matthew Arundell of Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, and seems to have been born about 1538. His father was Sir Thomas Arundell of Wardour, who was beheaded for political reasons by the Duke of Northumberland in February 1552. The mother of Matthew and Charles was Margaret Howard, sister to Queen Catherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII, whose execution for alleged adultery is one of the worst stains on that homicidal monarch’s memory.
In the authoritative Genealogical Collections of Roman Catholic Families of England by Howard and others (1887), our man appears as Sir Charles Arundell of London, Knt.
But he is not listed in Shaw’s Knights of England, his name evidently being erased from the book of honor following his flight from England. The inquisition post mortem on his estate, taken March 12, 1588, names him as above, however. He died in legal possession of the manor of South Petherton, County Somerset, and this estate passed to his brother, Sir Matthew, a more loyal and worthy knight. (7)
Sir Charles Arundell, like many another devious character, will live in the true history of his times, only because of his unhappy connection with a man of genius. C. W. B.
1. See ” ‘Shake-speare’s Unknown home on the River Avon Discovered.” Vol. IV, No. 1, The Shakespeare Fellowship News-Letter.
2. See Gabriel Harvey ‘s Collected Works. Vol. II. p. 124. Pierce’s Supererogation, wherein Harvey writes of his early friendship with John Lyly when the latter was employed by Lord Oxford.
3. Certain scholars, commenting on this Speech, intimate that the Page who spoke the lines also wrote them. This seems highly improbable. For the speaker would have been chosen primarily for his ability to please the Queen with his personal good looks and well-trained voice. These specifications indicate an accomplished actor such as John or Laurence Dutton—both of whom are known to have been members of Lord Oxford’s company of players at this time. We therefore suggest for the role of the Page, John Dutton (who became one of the Queen’s own men about three years later), as one most likely to have had the physical qualifications and the special ability to “read” the lines of the Sun-Tree allegory to Elizabeth with appropriately dramatic effect at the historic matinee on January 22, 1530.
4. The “two Turkeies” are the dynasties of York and Lancaster, from which the golden-haired Queen was descended, her grandfather, Henry VII having married the York Princess Elizabeth, for whom Queen Elizabeth was named. “Each contending once for superiority” refers, of course, to the War of the Roses, ending with Henry Tudor’s defeat of Richard III. The New English Dict. credits Shakespeare with second literary use of “Turkeies.” In The Merchant, Shylock says: “Out upon her! . . . it was my Turkeies: I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor.”
5. Identified as such by all of Sidney’s modern biographers who have had access to the family records; although Professor M. W. S. Swan in an article on this tournament (referred to on another page), doesn’t seem to know who The White Knight is, and describes him as “a plebeian.”
6. Two of Lord Oxford’s close friends were John Lord Lumley and Edward Somerset, Earl of Worcester, both staunch Catholics—and recognized by all Englishmen as men of outstanding character and merit.
7. His grandson Thomas, 2nd Baron Arundell of Wardour (whose mother was Mary Wriothesley, sister of the 3rd Earl of Southampton), is listed in Lee’s Census as one of the original owners of Shakespeare’s First Folio.