The Passionate Pilgrim 1.10: Why Jacques?

A performance in progress at the Swan theatre in London in 1596.

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;”

Thus begins one of the most memorable speeches ever written. Everyone in the English-speaking world has heard it. They may not know who speaks it or why, but they will probably know that what follows is the seven ages of man.

What is odd about this speech is that, unlike “To be or not to be” or “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” it really doesn’t seem to have any purpose. For that matter its speaker, Jacques, does not seem to have any purpose. Neither he nor his most famous speech make any connection to the action of As You Like It. They are there, they are amusing, but they could both be easily pulled straight out of the play and nothing much would change for any of the characters, the plot or the outcome. So, what are they doing there?

I think that this speech is a direct reply to Ben Jonson’s Prologue in Every Man In His Humor. I have several reasons for thinking this. First is that Jonson made a very direct attack on the type of play that had been most successful on the London stage, in particular Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy (co-written I believe by Marlowe) and any number of the bold historical plays attributed to Shakespeare, including most recently at that time Julius Caesar.

Jonson explicitly advocated a theater that paid more attention to “deeds and language such as men do use” rather than one that depicted “Monsters.” Every Man In His Humor was Jonson’s alternative type of play.

A performance in progress at the Swan theatre in London in 1596.
A performance in progress at the Swan theatre in London in 1596. By Arnoldus Buchelius (Aernout van Buchel) (1565-1641), after a drawing of Johannes de Witt (1566-1622). Utrecht, University Library, Ms. 842, fol. 132r. (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the second act of Jonson’s play, his lead character, Know-well, makes a long speech about how difficult it is to be the father of a ne’er-do-well son. In a lot of ways, this speech can be seen as a precursor to Jacques famous speech. It is not quite so well written from a poetic perspective, there are none of Jacques memorable lines, but it deals with similar issues, with a father reflecting on wayward youth and generational discontent.

Many scholars have convinced each other that Shakespeare “probably” played the role of Know-Well, based on the prominence of his name in the cast list and the importance of the role. I don’t believe that tradition has much supportive evidence. Shakespeare would have been in his mid thirties at the time of the play’s production, 1598, and should not be assumed to have been preferable to an actor old enough to play an elderly man.

I do believe that, regardless of whether or not Shakespeare played Know-Well, a second reason for Jacques’ speech was as an appreciation of Jonson’s premise. In a way, Jacques expands on Jonson. Where Jonson says he wants to focus on real men, Jacques reminds us that men are changeable and that they have more capacity than Jonson describes.

The irony is that Jacques is As You Like It’s Jonson. Jonson already had a reputation for being melancholy, as Jacques is repeatedly described, he was known for private study, which Jacques eventually decides to pursue, and they both reject the fanciful world of Arden.

All of which returns us to the war of the poets. There is no doubt that Jonson wanted to make a name for himself. He was not just a capable writer, he had a point of view and a theory of what drama should present that was demonstrated in his own work. As You Like It responded to this generously and it is notable that Jonson did not take offense at Jacques the way he did with Marston’s much less pointed critique.

In the long run, Jonson was never able to banish grand spectacles from the stage, who could? But his advocacy of domestic drama and domestic comedy has proved successful. While Jonson’s own plays are not produced with anything like the frequency of those attributed to Shakespeare, domestic comedy and drama dominates a variety of venues, including television, film (with the exception of super-hero epics) and the modern stage, saving only musicals.

Jacques, therefore, is not a mere melancholic. He is a voice from the past’s future. If he is nostalgic, it is because he knows that he will miss some of those epic spectacles that Jonson wants to replace on stage. Fortunately, for each of them, there has been plenty of room for both.

Next:     Acting in the Age of Elizabeth

PeteHeadshotDr. Peter Hodges holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington (class of ‘75), an M.A. in Directing and a Ph. D. in Literature from The City Graduate Center of The City University of New York City, New York (1986 and 1992).  Dr. Pete (as he is sometimes known among his friends) is a 30 year veteran of the Wall Street wars, author and producer of more than a dozen plays, a novel, and a critical study of Sadakichi Hartmann’s plays.

The Passionate Pilgrim 1.7: Disguises

One of the oddest things about As You Like It is the fact that Rosalind, confronted with exile, immediately decides to disguise herself as a man. There is no real reason for this; the plot does not demand it, her best friend Celia does not join her in the ruse, and Rosalind’s sanity might well be called into question for attempting it.

By Robert Walker Macbeth (British, 1848–1910) (Shakespeare Illustrated) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Robert Walker Macbeth (British, 1848–1910) (Shakespeare Illustrated) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It is fair enough to observe that the play is closely following its probable source in this. Thomas Lodge’s story also features a Rosalynd disguising herself as a man and uses the same pretext that she is tall.

It is also true that by 1599 the business of women (played by boys) impersonating adult men on the English stage had been fairly well established. Starting with Sir Clyomon and Sir Clamydes (1570) and including The Wars of Cyrus (1576?), Promus and Cassandra (1578) [probable source for Measure for Measure], Gallathea (1583), Soliman and Persida (1589) and James the Fourth. In each case, however, the disguise was used for the purpose of escape.

Lodge’s innovation was to allow Rosalynd to do something more than hide. His male impersonator directly pursues her love. As You Like It takes this a major step further and has Rosalind not only secure her match with Orlando, but depicts her as the essential agent in the restoration of her exiled father.

Published December 24th 1997 by Edinburgh University Press
Published December 24th 1997 by Edinburgh University Press

By the time of the Restoration, Breeches parts, as they came to be known, were all the vogue. This appears to have had something to do with the fact that women were finally allowed to play women onstage and the other impression that women wearing men’s pants were more or less risqué (depending on the cut, etc.).

That particular aspect would probably have been lost on an Elizabethan audience accustomed to watching boys play women, some of which was alleged at the time to be deliberately provocative, but not out of a concern for women.

On the other hand, the onstage transformation of a boy playing a woman who decides to disguise him/herself as a man and/or boy is/was undoubtedly amusing. At that point, the surreal potential of the theatrical experience is fully engaged. But, from the reality of Rosalind’s situation, it is not necessary and makes no sense.

Because if, in the real world, she is discovered as a woman impersonating a man while attempting to escape the Duke’s verdict then she is in deeper trouble than she would ever have been if she had simply accepted the banishment which would have put her in the same forest and in the same company.

Comedies are built on these types of discontinuities, so I don’t intend criticize any of that. What I am trying to underscore is that the author was doing something very unusual, very improbable and that he was not merely being innovative: he had a real thing about it.

The play differentiates itself from the original in so many ways that any retention of the source should be considered more than a mere compliment. The author had a purpose.

In fact, half the major characters in the play are traveling in one form of disguise or another. In this I include not only Rosalind and Celia, but also Orlando, Jacques (as a stand in for Jonson), Touchstone, and even Oliver who does not reveal himself until he has confessed his shame. The play is a veritable epic of camouflage and revelation.

There was clearly a purpose in all of this. Rosalind, the woman who disguises herself as a man in a world where everyone important to her (excepting her exiled father and his company) travels in some form of disguise, is not selected as a heroine for no reason. This play is not merely a pastoral comedy of manners. Far from it.

As I have noted before, Rosalind is significant in so many ways. She is a flat departure from the depiction of women as inferior to men. She is the master of everyone she meets, yet she is gentle, empathetic and patient. Still, even she finds it necessary to engage in subterfuge to gain her ends.

It is this theme of deception, coming to its first full flower in the midst of the “Poet’s War”, which marks As You Like It as a turning point.

Next: Themes that Repeat

PeteHeadshotDr. Peter Hodges holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington (class of ‘75), an M.A. in Directing and a Ph. D. in Literature from The City Graduate Center of The City University of New York City, New York (1986 and 1992).  Dr. Pete (as he is sometimes known among his friends) is a 30 year veteran of the Wall Street wars, author and producer of more than a dozen plays, a novel, and a critical study of Sadakichi Hartmann’s plays.

The Passionate Pilgrim 1.5: Touchstone and “Le Recknynge”

There is one other very curious correspondence between As You Like It and Every Man Out of His Humor. In As You Like It, Touchstone remarks to Audrey: “When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward child Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.” III. 3. 10-13.

Under the best of circumstances, this would have to be considered an odd line. Academics generally try to relate it to Christopher Marlowe’s Barabas in The Jew of Malta who desires “Infinite riches in a little room.” I. 1. 37.

Christopher Marlowe Portrait
Putative portrait of Christopher Marlowe (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)

What is not often reported is that the “reckoning” mentioned in As You Like It appears to be responding to Jonson’s character Macilente’s prior reference in Every Man Out of His Humor to “signior Fungoso, being at supper tonight at a tavern, there happened some division amongst them, and he is left in pawn for the reckoning.” V. 3. 53-6.

Most scholars have turned away from this odd puzzle and have considered it insignificant. In doing so, however, they have ignored what was reported just prior to these passages.

Specifically, in 1597, Thomas Beard in Theater of God’s Judgement claimed that “in the London streets [Marlowe] purposed to stab one whom he ought a grudge . . . , the other party perceiving so . . . stabbed his own dagger into [Marlowe’s] head. . . .” Then, in 1598, Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia asserted that “Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death by a bawdy serving man.”

Neither of these accounts make any mention of a “reckoning” being the predicate of the action that resulted in Marlowe’s death (in fact Beard’s account bears more resemblance to Marlowe’s altercation with William Bradley almost eight years before, which was settled by his friend Thomas Watson who killed Bradley in the exchange).

The odd thing about this is that the Queen’s Cororner, William Danby, who personally conducted the inquest into Marlowe’s death, concluded that it resulted from a dispute over “le recknynge” of the account due for the afternoon and evening’s entertainment that Marlowe and three other men spent at Mistress Bull’s establishment in Deptford. What is even more odd about this is that Danby’s report was immediately sealed and was not open to the public until it was discovered by Leslie Hotson in 1926, three hundred thirty-three years after the fact.

Tavern Scene by Flemish artist David Teniers c. 1658
Tavern Scene by Flemish artist David Teniers c. 1658 via Wikimedia Commons

In fact, the actual witnesses at the inquest could not have known the conclusions drawn by the Queen’s Coroner, so they would not have been able, by themselves, to advertize them. As a result, the reports that circulated were largely rumors that all lacked this crucial detail. Except for those provided by As You Like It and Jonson.

For some reason, both As You Like It and Jonson appear to have Marlowe on the brain. Their twin references to the “Reckoning” suggest nothing so much as inside knowledge of a police report that had not been released to the public. The implications of these references, on their own, are difficult to assess as both writers immediately moved on.

In the midst of all of this, it is important to note that all of the most significant Shakespearean scholars freely declare that Marlowe and his plays and poetry are the absolute foundation upon which all of the English theatre is based. That includes all of the most significant Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights and poets, not the least of which is Shakespeare. There is really no discussion on that point. Without Marlowe, there is no modern English theatre.

In my mind, this makes the curious correspondence between As You Like It and Ben Jonson’s Humors that much more remarkable.

Next: Rosalind.

PeteHeadshotDr. Peter Hodges holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington (class of ‘75), an M.A. in Directing and a Ph. D. in Literature from The City Graduate Center of The City University of New York City, New York (1986 and 1992).  Dr. Pete (as he is sometimes known among his friends) is a 30 year veteran of the Wall Street wars, author and producer of more than a dozen plays, a novel, and a critical study of Sadakichi Hartmann’s plays.

The Passionate Pilgrim 1.4: Will, Audrey and Touchstone

It is difficult to say whether or not Shakespeare actually intended to respond to Ben Jonson’s ridicule of him via the role of Sogliardo. In fact, he appears not to have acknowledged it at all. What happened instead is that As You Like It took Jonson’s mockery to a new level.

Shakespeare's_Heroines_-_Rosalind
Rosalind as Ganymede in The Forest of Arden. By Robert Walker Macbeth (artist), Sampson Low, Marston & Co. (publisher), via Wikimedia Commons

The main plot of As You Like It concerns Rosalind, daughter of the falsely accused and unfairly exiled Duke Senior, and her adventures in the forest of Arden where she takes the disguise of a young man, attempts to rescue and exonerate her father and falls in love with Orlando who has also earned the Duke’s displeasure and has traveled to Arden.

There is also a secondary plot, which has very little, if anything, to do with Rosalind’s quest. This plot involves Touchstone, a clown, Audrey, a country wench, and William, a country youth, in love with Audrey.

These two plots travel upon somewhat parallel tracks, with Rosalind accomplishing all of her goals, including restoration of her father to his rightful position and marriage to the once but no longer disfavored Orlando, while Touchstone deposes William in Audrey’s favor and subsequently marries her.

I intend to examine the role of Rosalind and the difficulties facing her, why she chooses to travel in disguise and how she manages to turn the tables on her opponents, in later installments. What I want to focus on now is Touchstone.

Touchstone, whose name is derived from an alchemical term meaning:

  1. a type of black stone formerly used to test the purity of gold or silver by the streak left on it when it was rubbed with the metal 2. any test or criterion for determining genuineness or value.

Webster’s Second College Edition.

spots William approaching Audrey and himself and immediately calls him a “clown”. Subsequently, he calls him a “clown” to his face and chases him offstage, threatening to kill him one  hundred fifty ways. In between, Touchstone tells William:

“Then, learn this of me. To have is to have. For it is a figure in rhetoric that drink, being poured out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other; for all your writers do consent that ‘ipse’ is he. Now, you are not ‘ipse’, for I am he.”

As You Like It, V. 1. 39-43

There are a lot of ways to interpret this passage, none of which I can imagine fall to the advantage of William. One interpretation that I can imagine is that if Touchstone is Ben Jonson, then he is once again accusing William Shakespeare of being a fraud. Except that, in this instance, it is the author of As You Like It who is repeating this accusation using Touchstone as a stand in for Jonson.

John_William_Waterhouse_-_Touchstone,_The_Jester
Touchstone, the Jester, John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, Touchstone may not be representative of Jonson at all. Keep in mind that Jonson never accused Shakespeare of plagiarizing his poetry, so the glass to glass metaphor does not quite fit between these two. Which is to say that, whatever glass is filling William’s, it probably isn’t Jonson’s.

William never gets another chance to stand up for himself. In fact, Touchstone has the pleasure of describing this encounter at some length, all to his own credit, at the end of Act V.

So, did Shakespeare decide to take the high road and lampoon himself by taking Jonson’s accusations to the next level, transforming a minor dispute over his dearly purchased heraldic emblem into a more personal attack on his legitimacy as an author (ie: drink poured from one full vessel, the original, into another, the empty recipient)? Was he perhaps disputing Jonson’s claims by showing them to be overheated, an invented heraldic emblem being much less significant than claims of authorship? If so, why? Why go to such an extreme?

Perhaps it had to do with yet another remarkable correspondence between As You Like It and Every Man Out of His Humor.

Next: Touchstone and “A Great Recknynge”

PeteHeadshot Dr. Peter Hodges holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington (class of ‘75), an M.A. in Directing and a Ph. D. in Literature from The City Graduate Center of The City University of New York City, New York (1986 and 1992).  Dr. Pete (as he is sometimes known among his friends) is a 30 year veteran of the Wall Street wars, author and producer of more than a dozen plays, a novel, and a critical study of Sadakichi Hartmann’s plays.

The Passionate Pilgrim 1.3: Sogliardo Revisted

Ben Jonson, if he was anything like a normal person, would clearly have understood that the opportunity to re-establish himself as a playwright with the leading company in London, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was not to be squandered. Regardless, as soon as he had made a hit with Every Man In His Humor, he immediately attacked Shakespeare, the company’s leading playwright, in Every Man Out of his Humor, satirizing him with the major character Sogliardo.

“Sogliardo is a variant of the Latin soliardo, literally parched soil.”

Daryl Pinksen, Marlowe’s Ghost, iUniverse, Inc., 2008, p. 198.

Title page of 1600 printing of "Every Man out of His Humour."
Title page of 1600 printing of “Every Man out of His Humour.” By Ben Jonson, via Wikimedia Commons

Subsequent to his presentation of his not to be forgotten herald and it’s spicy motto, Sogliardo is introduced by a disgraced poet named Macilente (ie: emaciated) to a young woman named Saviolina. Macilente tells her that although Sogliardo appears to be nothing more than a clown, he is actually a very sophisticated person who enjoys presenting himself as a clown. Therefore, his apparent foolishness is really a disguise for his great refinement. Naturally, Sogliardo, who knows nothing of this and is in fact a clown, proceeds to give a ridiculous performance that nevertheless charms Saviolina:

Sogliardo: How does my sweet lady? hot and moist? beautiful and lusty? ha!

Saviolina: Beautiful, an it please you, sir, but not lusty.

Eventually, Maciliente grows impatient with the success of his ruse and tries to explain to Saviolina that Sogliardo really is nothing more than a clown. She, however, does not believe him. It is not until he tricks Sogliardo into showing her his hands that she realizes he is not man of the world but rather a country bumpkin. At that point Saviolina is furious and exits.

Defenders of Shakespeare’s reputation generally refuse to accept the libel that Sogliardo is in any way a mockery of the Bard:

“Sogliardo, a country bumpkin of manifest stupidity, could not possibly be construed as a portrait of Shakespeare.”

Duncan-Jones, Katherine, Ungentle Shakespeare, 2001.

To this I can only reply that Duncan-Jones and Greenblatt (and others) fail to take into account Jonson’s own perception of events. He was certainly closer to the scene and there is no question that Shakespeare purchased a herald at that time, a practice which was to become more and more criticized during the subsequent reign of King James.

Is it possible that Jonson was looking over his shoulder at the success of Henry V and therefore taking a shot at Shakespeare from two directions, first at the bombastic theatrical style and second at the playwright’s pretensions? That is all interpretation after the fact.

On the other hand, if Jonson intended to criticize Marston and if Marston and Dekker chose to respond, such that their interaction became the subject of stacks of Ph. D. dissertations, then why not credit Jonson’s mockery of Shakespeare as at least his own report of his time and place?

What does all this have to do with As You Like It? Quite a bit, actually.

Next: Shakespeare Responds, or Does He? Will, Audrey and Touchstone.

 PeteHeadshotDr. Hodges holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington (class of ‘75), an M.A in Directing and a Ph. D. in Literature from The City Graduate Center of The City University of New York City, New York (1986 and 1992).  Dr. Pete (as he is sometimes known among his friends) is a 30 year veteran of the Wall Street wars, author and producer of more than a dozen plays, a novel, and a critical study of Sadakichi Hartmann’s plays.

The Passionate Pilgrim 1.2: “The Poets’ War”: A Prelude

One of the most curious aspects of the so-called “Poets’ War” was the fact that when he chose to attack other, rival, playwrights, Ben Jonson was not acting from a position of strength. In fact, in 1597 he had been sent to Marshalsea prison on charges of sedition arising from the production of The Isle of Dogs by Pembroke’s Men at the Swan. Co-authored with Thomas Nashe, this was Jonson’s first play and it satirized various members of the Court, quite possibly including the Privy Council and the Queen. The play was immediately suppressed and no copies survive.

marshalsea
Marshalsea Prison, circa 1620

While in prison, Jonson met the actor Gabriel Spencer, and, subsequent to their release in 1598, they engaged in a duel which left Spencer dead. Spencer was then the lead actor for Pembroke’s Men and his death more or less ruined the company.

Jonson was taken to Tyburn Prison where he was to be hanged, but managed to escape this fate by reportedly claiming the “right of clergy” which provided clemency to scholars fluent in Latin. This “right” could be claimed only once, so if Jonson was taken to prison again, that would be that.

Jonson came out of Tyburn with no assets and no reputation. His thumb had been branded with a capital “T,” so there was no mistaking his status. Despite all of this, he found his way to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men who promptly staged Every Man in his Humor with great success.

From the perspective of the “Poets’ War,” the play included some notable passages, in particular the Prologue in which Jonson asserted that plays should be about “deedes, and language, such as men do use” rather than fantastical events or historical pageants. Later, in Act I, Master Matthew, “the town gull” quotes rapturously to Captain Broadbill lines from The Spanish Tragedy, Thomas Kyd’s most famous play.

thomaskyd
Thomas Kyd

By his own testimony before the Privy Council in 1593, Kyd declared that he had been “writing in one chamber” with Christopher Marlowe since at least 1590. Personally, I think that collaboration started much earlier as Kyd and Marlowe had known each other since Marlowe’s Cambridge days. The point being that Marlowe was very likely a contributor to The Spanish Tragedy, which has strong similarities to his own Tamburlaine, both of which featured bombastic characters and long descriptions of bloody battles, spectacular victories and glorious parades, all of which Jonson declared he had had enough.

Christopher Marlowe was declared dead in May, 1593 and Thomas Kyd died less than a year later. By 1598, there was no reason that Jonson should concern himself with their possible response to his mockery of their theatrical style. Instead, he was applauded for advocating a more natural form of theatre.

That said, Jonson had thrown down the gauntlet. He wanted to bring the theater down to earth. With Henry V then being prepared for production, the very type of play against which he had declared his opposition, he decided to turn his attention to Shakespeare.

The name Shakespeare had only recently been acknowledged in print. Francis Meres, in Palladis Tamia (1598), recorded him as a playwright and attributed twelve plays to him (Meres also complimented Jonson in the same volume). At nearly the same time, several of these same plays appeared in print under Shakespeare’s name. It is doubtful that Shakespeare approved of any of these quarto publications, but his name had never been in better repute and he would appear to have been beyond reproach.

It seems safe to say that Jonson should not have expected to improve his association with the Lord Chamberlain’s men by attacking its leading playwright and very significant partner. But, that is what he did.

Next:     Sogliardo Revisited

PeteHeadshotDr. Hodges holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington (class of ‘75), an M.A in Directing and a Ph. D. in Literature from The City Graduate Center of The City University of New York City, New York (1986 and 1992).  Dr. Pete (as he is sometimes known among his friends) is a 30 year veteran of the Wall Street wars, author and producer of more than a dozen plays, a novel, and a critical study of Sadakichi Hartmann’s plays.

The Passionate Pilgrim Begins

Welcome to “The Passionate Pilgrim”, the blog dedicated to all matters dealing with the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage.  As this blog is sponsored by Island Shakespeare Festival, it will focus initially on the plays being offered by them during their current season.

Unlike the standard academic introductions to As You Like It, which discuss plot, character, theme and so forth, I want to start with the very unusual circumstance of the so-called “Poets War” or “War of the Theaters” and the unique role this play performed in this dispute.

The standard academic history of this “war” asserts that it was ignited by John Marston in the play Histriomastix (1599), which included an attack on Ben Jonson, which supposedly censured Jonson “for being too dependent upon scholarship” (Bednarz, James P., Shakespeare and the Poets’ War, p. 91)

Ben Jonson (c. 1617), by Abraham Blyenberch; oil on canvas painting at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Ben Jonson (c. 1617), by Abraham Blyenberch; National Portrait Gallery, London

Jonson responded with Every Man Out of his Humour (1599), which included the clown character Clove, generally understood to be a stand in for Marston, who speaks “fustian” [ie: pompous, pretentious speech] in mimicry of Marston’s style. Insults are said to have followed in several plays, with other poets,  primarily Thomas Dekker, sometimes alone and sometimes in combination with Marston, throwing in their tuppence, until it all flamed out in 1602. Not atypically, there is some dispute about the sequence of these events, in particular whether or not Jonson’s satire of Marston actually preceded Histriomastix. In general, the academic version leaves Shakespeare out of the action.

The truth is a little different.

Title page of 1600 printing of "Every Man out of His Humour."
Title page of 1600 printing of “Every Man out of His Humour.” By Ben Jonson (http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/jonson/j4.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If there ever was such a thing as a “Poets’ War,” itself being a characterization created by nineteenth century academicians, then it must fairly be said to have begun with Jonson’s very direct attacks on Shakespeare in Every Man Out of His Humour, where he mocks a character named Sogliardo for his acquisition of a herald whose motto is “Not Without Mustard.” This is universally understood as an unflattering reference to Shakespeare who had recently acquired a Heraldic emblem with the Latin motto “Non Sanz Drocit” which translates as “Not Without Right.”

Shakespeare_coat-of-arms1
Artist unknown, some say it may be William Shakespeare (College of Heralds, London) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, Jonson’s previous play, Every Man In His Humour (1598) is the only play that actually records Shakespeare as an actor. He is listed in the 1616 printing of Jonson’s Folio as a principal commedian. Shakespeare is often listed with the Lord Chamberlain’s and later the King’s Company, but only as a shareholder or player, never as an actor and never in any printed script as an actor, not even in those credited to him.  All the academics who claim that Shakespeare played the Ghost of Hamlet, Amiens, etc., are just making it up (ie: Shakespeare is listed as a “player”, therefore he must have had a “part”, therefore I, Mr. Academic, based on nothing more than my personal preference, am going to cast him thus: post hoc ergo propter hoc at its best). There is, in fact, no evidence for Shakespeare playing any role onstage other than one written by Jonson.

After which, Jonson writes a play which mocks Shakespeare, and the Lord Chaimberlain’s Men, of which Shakespeare is a shareholder, immediately presents it.  Even Stephen Greenblatt admits how strange this must have been:

“As a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Will would have listened to this insult    again and again in rehearsal and in performance. He probably laughed uncomfortably- how else does one get through this kind of teasing?” Greenblatt, Stephen,  Will in the World, p. 80

All things considered, just as Greenblatt imagines that Shakespeare laughed it off, it is just as easy to imagine that by including Shakespeare in his Folio’s cast list Jonson was repeating the insult in print.

One might expect Shakespeare to respond to this as Marston appears to have done with an insult of his own. Or, as Greenblatt imagines, he might have laughed it off. What happened, however, is much more surprising.

Next: Will, Audrey and Touchstone

PeteHeadshotDr. Hodges holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington (class of ‘75), an M.A in Directing and a Ph. D. in Literature from The City Graduate Center of The City University of New York City, New York (1986 and 1992).  Doc Hodges (as he is sometimes known among his friends) is a 30 year veteran of the Wall Street wars, author and producer of more than a dozen plays, a novel, and a critical study of Sadakichi Hartmann’s plays.