Shakspere And Montaigne
Part 4 out of 4
'A new foundation, Sir, here in the town, of ladies, that call
themselves the Collegiates: an order between courtiers and country
madams that live from their husbands, and give entertainment to all
the wits and braveries of the time, as they call them: cry down, or up,
what they like or dislike in a brain or a fashion, with most masculine
or rather hermaphroditical authority; and every day gain to their
College some new probationer.
_Clerimont_. Who is the president?
_Truewitt_. The grave and youthful matron, the Lady Haughty.'
Shakspere at that time was in the 'matronly' age of forty-five.
We have seen how a 'dislike in a brain' has been expressed in _Hamlet_.
13: The name of Ovid, likewise used in that eulogy, Jonson assigned,
in his _Poetaster_, to Marston. (See _note_ 22 at end of
14: It would have been most strange, indeed, if the two greatest
geniuses of their time had not exercised some influence on each
other; if the greatest thinker of that age had not given some
suggestive thoughts to the poet; and if the poet had not animated
the thinker to the cultivation of art, inducing him to offer his
philosophical thoughts in beautiful garment. Hence Mrs. Henry Pott
may have found vestiges of a more perfected and nobler style in
Bacon's _Diaries_, on which she founded her wild theory. Had not Kant
and Fichte great influence on their contemporary, Schiller? Does
not Goethe praise the influence exercised by Spinoza upon him? Let
us assume that the latter two had been contemporaries; that they
had lived in the same town. Would it not have been extraordinary
if they had remained intellectual strangers to each other, instead
of drawing mutual advantage from their intercourse? Why should
Bacon not have been one of the noblemen who, after the performance
of a play, were initiated, in the Mermaid Tavern, into the more
hidden meaning of a drama? Is it not rather likely that Bacon
drew Shakspere's attention to the inconsistencies of Montaigne?
15: The advocates, in festive processions, made use of mules. Maybe
that Jonson calls Shakspere a 'good dull mule' because in _Hamlet_
he champions the views of 'Sir Lawyer' Bacon.
16: This notion, that Shakspere has mainly distinguished himself in
the comic line--in the representation of Foolery--harmonises
with Jonson's opinion, as privately expressed in _Timber; or,
Discoveries made upon Men and Matter_ (1630-37), in a noteworthy
degree. There he says of Shakspere:--'His wit was in his own power.
Would the rule of it had been so, too.'
17: An allusion to Shakspere's unclassical metrics, and his great
success among the public, although in Jonson's opinion he brings
neither regular 'play nor university show.'
18: In Androgyno, whom he brings in.
19: This is Jonson's answer to the question raised in _Twelfth Night_
(act iv. sc. 2), when Malvolio is in prison, in regard to Pythagoras.
20: We can nowhere find any clue to such a personage of antiquity,
and we take it to be a reference to Pyrrhon of Elis, the founder
of the sceptic school.
21: Bacon was a friend of this sport. Mrs. Pott points out some
technical expressions which we find both in Bacon's works and in
Shakspere. Perhaps we might stretch our fancy so far as to assume
that Bacon is Pyrrhus of Delos, and that gentle Shakspere
sometimes went a-fishing with him on the banks of the Thames.
22: 'As itself doth relate it.' Yet the soul does not relate anything,
except that it is said to have spoken, in all the characters it
assumed, 'as in the cobbler's cock.' We must, therefore, probably
look in plays--in Shakspere's dramas--for that which the soul has
spoken in its various stages as a king, as a beggar, and so forth.
23: 'Brock' (badger)--a word which Shakspere only uses once;
viz. in _Twelfth Night_ (act ii. sc. 5). Sir Toby's whole
indignation against Malvolio culminates in the words:--'Marry,
hang thee, brock!' We know of Jonson's unseemly bodily figure,
his 'ambling' gait, which rendered him unfit for the stage. The
pace of a badger would be a very graphic description of his manner
of walking. Now, Jonson sneers at the word 'brock' in a way not
unfrequent with Shakspere himself, in regard to various words used
by Jonson against him. In _The Poetaster_, Tucca falls out
against the 'wormwood' comedies, which drag everything on to the
stage. We are reminded here of Hamlet's exclamation:--'Wormwood,
wormwood!' when the Queen of the Interlude speaks the two lines he
had probably intercalated:--
In second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who kill'd the first.
24: 'Cobbler's cock' refers most likely to a drama by Robert
Wilson, entitled: _Cobbler's Prophecy_. In Collier's
_History of the English Drama_ (iii. pp. 247-8) it is thus
'It is a mass of absurdity without any leading purpose, but here and
there exhibiting glimpses of something better. The scene of the play
is laid in Boeotia which is represented to be ruled by a duke, but
in a state of confusion and disorganisation.... One of the principal
characters is a whimsical Cobbler who, by intermediation of the
heathen god Mercury, obtains prophetic power, the chief object
of which is to warn the Duke of the impending ruin of his state
unless he consents to introduce various reforms, and especially
to unite the discordant classes of his subjects.' Jonson may have
looked upon _Hamlet_ in this manner from his point of view.
It is for us to admire the prophetical spirit of Shakspere who
in Montaigne perceived the germ of the helplessly divided nature
of modern man.
25: 'Or his great oath, by _Quarter_.' No doubt, this is an
allusion of Jonson to Shakspere's 'quarter share,' the fourth
part of the receipts of his company. The Blackfriars Theatre had
sixteen shareholders. It is proved that Shakspere at that time,
when a valuation of the theatre was made, had a claim to four
parts, each of L233 6s. 8d. (Chr. Armitage Brown, _Shak.
Autobiographical Poems_, London, 1838, p. 101). In _The
Poetaster_ (act iii. sc. i), Tucca says to Crispinus the
Poetaster:--'Thou shall have a quarter share.' In Epistle xii.
(_Forest_), which Jonson addresses to Elizabeth, Countess
of Rutland, and which, in our opinion, also contains an allusion
to Shakspere, as well as to his protector, William Herbert, Ben
speaks of poets with 'their quarter face.'
26: Shakspere often introduced music in his dramas. Jonson ridicules
this; so did Marston, as we shall see. (_Twelfth Night_, for instance,
opens with music.)
27: 'His golden thigh.' The shape of the legs, the 'yellow cross-gartered
stockings' of poor Malvolio in _Twelfth Night_ are here ridiculed.
28: Malvolio says to his friends:--'I am not of your element.' In
the same play, great sport is made of this word, until the Fool himself
at last gets weary of it, when he says (act iii. sc. i):--'You are
out of my welkin--I might say _element_, but the word is overworn.'
29: Blackfriars, where Shakspere first acted, was a former cloister.
'On fish, when first a Carthusian I entered,' no doubt means that
from the beginning he had preferred keeping mute as a fish, in regard
to forbidden matters of the Church.
30: I.e., _Christmas_-pie. In the Prologue of _The Return from
Parnassus_, this comedy is called a _Christmas Toy_.
Shakspere is therein lavishly praised by his brother actors,
whereas Jonson is spoken of as 'a bold whoreson, as confident now
in making of a book, as he was in times past in laying of a brick.'
A veritable libel!
31: _Hamlet_ (act v. sc. 2):--
Methought, I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes
32: Through Jonson's satire we always see the sanctimonious Jesuit
33: These are the parables in which Hamlet speaks. Many a reader will
understand why Shakspere could not use more explicit language.
34: So the envious Jonson calls Shakspere's public who are satisfied with
'salad;' that is, with patchy compositions, pieced together from all
kinds of material.
35: Jonson had Scottish ancestry.
36: In a moment of fanaticism, Hamlet wishes Ophelia to go to a
nunnery. Jonson, in most cynical manner, means to say that
Hamlet had been impotent as regards his _innamorata_. Though
'for the nones' may be taken as 'for the nonce,' it yet comes close
enough to a _double-entendre_--namely, 'for the _nuns_.'
37: _Dramatic versus Wit Combats_. London, 1864. Ed. John Russell
38: To mount a bank = mountebank.
39: From one of them poor Ben received a _vile medicine_: a _purge_.
41: Shakspere's _Autobiographical Poems_.
42: Karl Elze (_Essays on Shakespeare_; London 1874) thinks this passage
is intended against Shakespeare's alleged theft committed in the
_Tempest_, the composition of which he, therefore, places in the year
1604-5, while most critics assign it to a much later period. It must
also be mentioned that Karl Elze draws attention to the more friendly
words with which Jonson, in his own handwriting, dedicates his _Volpone_
In the opinion of the German critic, it is not difficult to gather from
this Dedication the desire of the meanly quarrelsome scholar Jonson
to give his friend Florio to understand that, among other things, he
would read with considerable satisfaction how he (Jonson) had made short
work with this 'Shake-scene' and this 'upstart Crow.'
43: Dekker tells Horace that his--Johnson's--plays are misliked at Court.
According to the above-quoted words of Jonson, _Hamlet_ seems to have
pleased at Court on its first appearance.
44: The following passage in Jonson's _Epicoene_ is also
interesting, though in the play itself it is not made to refer to
Montaigne but apparently to Plutarch and Seneca: 'Grave asses! mere
essayists: a few loose sentences, and that's all. A man could talk
so his whole age. I do utter as good things every hour if they were
collected and observed, as either of them.' May not such words have
fallen from Shakspere's lips, in regard to Montaigne, before an
intimate circle in the Mermaid Tavern?
45: This may point either to Montaigne or to Dr. Guinne, the
fellow-worker of Florio in the translation of the Essays, whom the
latter calls 'a monster-quelling Theseus or Hercules.'
46: The reasons which induce us to this opinion are the following:
The three authors of _Eastward Hoe_ were arrested on account of a
satire contained in this play against the Scots; James I., himself
a Scot, having become King of England a year before. The audacious
stage-poets were threatened with having their noses and ears cut
off. They were presently freed, however; probably through the
intervention of some noblemen. Soon afterwards, Jonson was again
in prison; and we suspect that this second imprisonment took place
in consequence of _Volpone_. We base this view on several incidents.
In a letter Jonson addressed in 1605, from his place of confinement,
to Lord Salisbury (_Ben Jonson_, edited by Cunningham, vol. i. xlix.),
he says that he regrets having once more to apply to his kindness
on account of a play, after having scarcely repented 'his first
error' (most probably _Eastward Hoe_).' Before I can shew myself
grateful in the least for former benefits, I am enforced to provoke
your bounties for more.' In this letter, Jonson uses a tone similar
to the one which pervades his Dedication of _Volpone_. We therefore
believe that both letter and Dedication have reference to one and
the same matter. In the letter, Jonson addresses Lord Salisbury in
this way:--'My noble lord, they deal not charitably who are witty in
another man's work, and utter sometimes their own malicious meanings
under our words.' He then continues, protesting that since his first
error, which was punished more with his shame than with his bondage,
he has only touched at general vice, sparing particular persons. He
goes on:--'I beseech your most honourable Lordship, suffer not other
men's errors or faults past to be made my crimes; but let me be
examined by all my works past and this present; and trust not to
Rumour, but my books (for she is an unjust deliverer, both of
great and of small actions), whether I have ever (many things I
have written private and public) given offence to a nation, to a
public order or state, or any person of honour or authority; but
have equally laboured to keep their dignity, as my own person,
Now, let us compare the following verses from the second Prologue
of _Epicoene_ (the plural here becomes the singular):--
If any yet will, with particular sleight
Of application, (Occasioned by some person's impertinent
wrest what he doth write;
And that he meant, or him, or her, will say:
They make a libel, which he made a play.
Nor will it be easy to find out who was the cause of _Volpone_ having
been persecuted at one time--that is to say, forbidden to be acted
on the stage. (Perchance by the 'obstreperous Sir Lawyer' who is
mentioned in it?)
We direct the reader's attention to the eulogistic poems composed
by Jonson's friends on _Volpone_. (_Ben Jonson_, by Cunningham, vol.
i. pp. civ.-cv.) First there are the extraordinary praises written
by those who sign their names in full:--J. DONNE, E. BOLTON, FRANCIS
BEAUMONT. Then follow verses, probably composed somewhat later,
which are cautiously signed by initials only--D. D., J. C., G. C.,
E. S., J. F., T. R. This is not the case with any other eulogistic
poems referring to Jonson's dramas. The verses before mentioned,
which are only signed by initials, all speak of a 'persecuted fox,
or of a fox killed by hounds.'
47: 'Come, my coach!' means: 'I value my honour less than my coach.'
The expression, 'O, how the wheel becomes it!' is of such a character
that we must refer the reader to Montaigne's Essay III. 11.
48: _Eastward Hoe_< was acted in the Blackfriars Theatre by
'The Children of Her Majestie's Revels.'
49: Until now it has been assumed that The Malcontent was acted by
Shakspere's Company in the Globe Theatre. This conclusion was
based on the title-page of the drama, which runs thus:--
_Augmented by Marston_
_With the Additions played by the Kings_
by_ JOHN WEBSTER.
It is, however, to be noted that in regard to all other plays of
Marston, whenever it is mentioned by whom they were acted (so,
for instance, in regard to _The Parasitaster_, the _Dutch Courtesane_,
and _Eastward Hoe_), the title is always indicated in this way
(designating both the Theatre and the Company):--'As it was plaid
in the Black Friars by the Children of her Maiesties Revels.' Again,
the mere perusal of the 'Induction' of _The Malcontent_ (not to speak
of the drama itself) shows that this play could not have been acted
'by the Kings Maiesties servants' during Shakspere's membership. For,
in this Induction there appear four actors of Shakspere's company:
Sly, Burbadge, Condell, and Lowin. They are brought in to justify
themselves why they act a certain play, 'another Company having
interest in it.' One of the actors excuses their doing so by saying
that, as they themselves have been similarly robbed, they have a
clear right to Malevole, the chief character in _The Malcontent_.
'Why not Malevole in folio with us, as Jeronimo _in decimo sexto_
with them? They taught us a name for our play: we call it: "_One
for Another_."' (That is to say, we give them 'Tit for Tat.')
_Sly_. What are your additions?
_Burbadge_. Sooth, not greatly needefull, only as your
sallet (salad) to your greate feast--to entertaine a little more
time, and to abridge the not received custome of musicke in our
theater. I must leave you, Sir. [_Exit_ Burbadge.
_Sinklow_. Doth he play _The Malcontent_?
_Condell_. Yes, Sir.
Our explanation of the Induction is this: Marston has committed
satirical trespass upon _Hamlet_. Shakspere, on his part, made
use of the chief action and the chief characters of _The Malcontent_
in his _Measure for Measure_ ('One for Another'); but he did so in
his own nobler manner. From the wildly confused material before
him he composed a magnificent drama. Once more, in the very beginning
of act i. sc. I, Shakspere makes the Duke utter words, each of which
is directed against the inactive nature of Montaigne:--
Thyself and thy belongings
Are not thine own so proper as to waste
Thyself upon thy virtues, them on thee.
...For if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, 't were all alike
As if we had them not.
Shakspere's contemporaries were not over careful as regards
style. 'With the additions played by the Kings Maiesties Servants,
written by John Webster,' means that the additions, in which
the servants of His Majesty, in the 'Induction,' are brought on the
stage, were written by John Webster.
Read the 'Extempore Prologue' which Sly speaks at the conclusion of
the Induction--a shameless travesty of the Epilogue in _As You
Like It_. Read the beginning of act iii. sc. 2 of _The Malcontent_,
where Malevole ('in some freeze gown') burlesques the splendid
monologue in King Henry the Fourth (Part 11. act iv. sc. I). Read
act iii. sc. 3 of _The Malcontent_, where Marston sneers at the scene
in act iv. of _King Richard the Second_ when Richard says:--
Now is this golden crown like a deep well,
That owes two buckets filling one another.
50: Is it imaginable that Shakspere could have allowed his own
most beautiful productions to be thus leered at, and mocked,
in his own theatre? Our feeling rebels against the thought.
Poetae Elegantissimo Gravissimo
Amico Suo Candido et Cordato
Johannes Marston, Musarum Alumnus,
Asperam Hanc Suam Thaliam DD.
51: Who else can be meant by the 'Frenchman's Helicon' than
Montaigne? He is satirically called 'Helicon,' as he is taken down
from his height in 'Hamlet.'
52: In meaning alike to Jonson's: 'Counting all old doctrine heresie.'
53: Act i. sc.2.
54: Act iv. sc. 5.
55: Act i. sc. 4.
56: Act i. sc. 7.
57: Act i. sc. 6.
58: Act iii. sc. 2.
59: Act ii. sc. 5.
60: Act i. Sc. 5 in _Hamlet_; _Malcontent_, act iii. sc. 3.
61: Perhaps an allusion to the conclusion of _Hamlet_, when the
State falls into the hands of a soldier (Fortinbras).
--Soldaten-Religion, keine Religion ('a soldier's religion, no
religion'), as the old German saying is.
62: Rochelle-Churchman--that is, Huguenot.
63: See Bacon's Essay, _Of Atheism_: 'All that impugn a received
religion or superstition are by the adverse part branded with the
name of Atheists.'
64: Sonnet lxvi. lxxxv.
65: xc. xci. xcii.
66: In _Eastward Hoe_, his most delicate poetical production,
Ophelia, is most abominably parodied--'rudely strumpeted.'
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