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- Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown - 2/37 -

author (April 20, 1610). Twelfth Night was not published till 1623, in the Folio: there was no quarto to enlighten Manningham about the author's name. We do not hear of printed playbills, with author's names inserted, at that period. It seems probable that occasional playgoers knew and cared no more about authors than they do at present. The world of the wits, the critics (such as Francis Meres), poets, playwrights, and players, did know and care about the authors; apparently Manningham did not. But he heard a piquant anecdote of two players and (March 13, 1601) inserted it in his Diary.

Shakespeare once anticipated Richard Burbage at an amorous tryst with a citizen's wife. Burbage had, by the way, been playing the part of Richard III. While Will was engaged in illicit dalliance, the message was brought (what a moment for bringing messages!) that Richard III was at the door, and Will "caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard III. Shakespeare's name William." (My italics.) Mr. Greenwood argues that if "Shakspere the player was known to the world as the author of the plays of Shakespeare, it does seem extremely remarkable" that Manningham should have thought it needful to add "Shakespeare's name William." {0d}

But WAS "Shakspere," or any man, "known to the world as the author of the plays of Shakespeare"? No! for Mr. Greenwood writes, "nobody, outside a very small circle, troubled his head as to who the dramatist or dramatists might be." {0e} To that "very small circle" we have no reason to suppose that Manningham belonged, despite his remarkable opinion that Twelfth Night resembles the Menaechmi. Consequently, it is NOT "extremely remarkable" that Manningham wrote "Shakespeare's name William," to explain to posterity the joke about "William the Conqueror," instead of saying, "the brilliant author of the Twelfth Night play which so much amused me at our feast a few weeks ago." {0f} "Remarkable" out of all hooping it would have been had Manningham written in the style of Mr. Greenwood. But Manningham apparently did not "trouble his head as to who the dramatist or dramatists might be." "Nobody, outside a very small circle," DID trouble his poor head about that point. Yet Mr. Greenwood thinks "it does seem extremely remarkable" that Manningham did not mention the author.

Later, on the publication of the Folio (1623), the world seems to have taken more interest in literary matters. Mr. Greenwood says that then while "the multitude" would take Ben Jonson's noble panegyric on Shakespeare as a poet "au pied de la lettre," "the enlightened few would recognise that it had an esoteric meaning." {0g} Then, it seems, "the world"--the "multitude"--regarded the actor as the author. Only "the enlightened few" were aware that when Ben SAID "Shakespeare," and "Swan of Avon," he MEANT--somebody else.

Quite different inferences are drawn from the same facts by persons of different mental conditions. For example, in 1635 or 1636, Cuthbert Burbage, brother of Richard, the famous actor, Will's comrade, petitioned Lord Pembroke, then Lord Chamberlain, for consideration in a quarrel about certain theatres. Telling the history of the houses, he mentions that the Burbages "to ourselves joined those deserving men, Shakspere, Heminge, Condell, Phillips and others." Cuthbert is arguing his case solely from the point of the original owners or lease-holders of the houses, and of the well-known actors to whom they joined themselves. Judge Webb and Mr. Greenwood think that "it does indeed seem strange . . . that the proprietor[s] of the playhouses which had been made famous by the production of the Shakespearean plays, should, in 1635--twelve years after the publication of the great Folio--describe their reputed author to the survivor of the Incomparable Pair, as merely a 'man-player' and 'a deserving man.'" Why did he not remind the Lord Chamberlain that this "deserving man" was the author of all these famous dramas? Was it because he was aware that the Earl of Pembroke "knew better than that"? {0h}

These arguments are regarded by some Baconians as proof positive of their case.

Cuthbert Burbage, in 1635 or 1636, did not remind the Earl of what the Earl knew very well, that the Folio had been dedicated, in 1623, to him and his brother, by Will's friends, Heminge and Condell, as they had been patrons of the late William Shakspere and admirers of his plays. The terms of this dedication are to be cited in the text, later. WE all NOW would have reminded the Earl of what he very well knew. Cuthbert did not.

The intelligence of Cuthbert Burbage may be gauged by anyone who will read pp. 481-484 in William Shakespeare, His Family and Friends, by the late Mr. Charles Elton, Q.C., of White Staunton. Cuthbert was a puzzle-pated old boy. The silence as to Will's authorship on the part of this muddle-headed old Cuthbert, in 1635-36, cannot outweigh the explicit and positive public testimony to his authorship, signed by his friends and fellow-actors in 1623.

Men believe what they may; but I prefer positive evidence for the affirmative to negative evidence from silence, the silence of Cuthbert Burbage.

One may read through Mr. Greenwood's three books and note the engaging varieties of his views; they vary as suits his argument; but he is unaware of it, or can justify his varyings. Thus, in 1610, one John Davies wrote rhymes in which he speaks of "our English Terence, Mr. Will Shakespeare"; "good Will." In his period patriotic English critics called a comic dramatist "the English Terence," or "the English Plautus," precisely as American critics used to call Mr. Bryant "the American Wordsworth," or Cooper "the American Scott"; and as Scots called the Rev. Mr. Thomson "the Scottish Turner." Somewhere, I believe, exists "the Belgian Shakespeare."

Following this practice, Davies had to call Will either "our English Terence," or "our English Plautus." Aristophanes would not have been generally recognised; and Will was no more like one of these ancient authors than another. Thus Davies was apt to choose either Plautus or Terence; it was even betting which he selected. But he chanced to choose Terence; and this is "curious," and suggests suspicions to Mr. Greenwood--and the Baconians. They are so very full of suspicions!

It does not suit the Baconians, or Mr. Greenwood, to find contemporary recognition of Will as an author. {0i} Consequently, Mr. Greenwood finds Davies's "curious, and at first sight, inappropriate comparison of 'Shake-speare' to Terence worthy of remark, for Terence is the very author whose name is alleged to have been used as a mask-name, or nom de plume, for the writings of great men who wished to keep the fact of their authorship concealed."

Now Davies felt bound to bring in SOME Roman parallel to Shakespeare; and had only the choice of Terence or Plautus. Meres (1598) used Plautus; Davies used Terence. Mr. Greenwood {0j} shows us that Plautus would not do. "Could HE" (Shakespeare) "write only of courtesans and cocottes, and not of ladies highly born, cultured, and refined? . . . "

"The supposed parallel" (Plautus and Shakespeare) "breaks down at every point." Thus, on Mr. Greenwood's showing, Plautus could not serve Davies, or should not serve him, in his search for a Roman parallel to "good Will." But Mr. Greenwood also writes, "if he" (Shakespeare) "was to be likened to a Latin comedian, surely Plautus is the writer with whom he should have been compared." {0k} Yet Plautus was the very man who cannot be used as a parallel to Shakespeare. Of course no Roman nor any other comic dramatist closely resembles the AUTHOR of As You Like It. They who selected either Plautus or Terence meant no more than that both were celebrated comic dramatists. Plautus was no parallel to Will. Yet "surely Plautus is the author to whom he should have been compared" by Davies, says Mr. Greenwood. If Davies tried Plautus, the comparison was bad; if Terence, it was "curious," as Terence was absurdly accused of being the "nom de plume" of some great "concealed poets" of Rome. "From all the known facts about Terence," says a Baconian critic (who has consulted Smith's Biographical Dictionary), "it is an almost unavoidable inference that John Davies made the comparison to Shakspere because he knew of the point common to both cases." The common point is taken to be, not that both men were famous comic dramatists, but that Roman literary gossips said, and that Baconians and Mr. Greenwood say, that "Terence" was said to be a "mask-name," and that "Shakespeare" is a mask-name. Of the second opinion there is not a hint in literature of the time of good Will.

What surprises one most in this controversy is that men eminent in the legal profession should be "anti-Shakesperean," if not overtly Baconian. For the evidence for the contemporary faith in Will's authorship is all positive; from his own age comes not a whisper of doubt, not even a murmur of surprise. It is incredible to me that his fellow-actors and fellow-playwrights should have been deceived, especially when they were such men as Ben Jonson and Tom Heywood. One would expect lawyers, of all people, to have been most impatient of the surprising attempts made to explain away Ben Jonson's testimony, by aid, first, of quite a false analogy (Scott's denial of his own authorship of his novels), and, secondly, by the suppression of such a familiar fact as the constant inconsistency of Ben's judgments of his contemporaries in literature. Mr. Greenwood must have forgotten the many examples of this inconsistency; but I have met a Baconian author who knew nothing of the fact. Mr. Greenwood, it is proper to say, does not seem to be satisfied that he has solved what he calls "the Jonsonian riddle." Really, there is no riddle. About Will, as about other authors, his contemporaries and even his friends, on occasion, Ben "spoke with two voices," now in terms of hyperbolical praise, now in carping tones of censure. That is the obvious solution of "the Jonsonian riddle."

I must apologise if I have in places spelled the name of the Swan of Avon "Shakespeare" where Mr. Greenwood would write "Shakspere," and vice versa. He uses "Shakespeare" where he means the Author; "Shakspere" where he means Will; and is vexed with some people who write the name of Will as "Shakespeare." As Will, in the opinion of a considerable portion of the human race, and of myself, WAS the Author, one is apt to write his name as "Shakespeare" in the usual way. But difficult cases occur, as in quotations, and in conditional sentences. By any spelling of the name I always mean the undivided personality of "Him who sleeps by Avon."


Till the years 1856-7 no voice was raised against the current belief about Shakespeare (1564-1616). He was the author in the main of the plays usually printed as his. In some cases other authors, one or more, may have had fingers in his dramas; in other cases, Shakespeare may have "written over" and transfigured earlier plays, of himself and of others; he may have contributed, more or less, to several plays mainly by other men. Separately printed dramas published during his time carry his name on their title-pages, but are not included in the first collected edition of his dramas, "The First Folio," put forth by two of his friends and fellow-actors, in 1623,

Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown - 2/37

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