It’s best to read: How Coleridge got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ right AND wrong!
Thomas Nashe was Shakespeare’s Collaborator on ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’.
Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….
In our last Post The Code announced that there were at least NINE words and phrases used in All’s Well that Ends Well that William Shakespeare never again used…..
…but which A.N.OTHER WRITER used once, twice and even three times in his other works….
The Code can now reveal that A. N. OTHER WRITER is none other than our old friend….
…and the works by Nashe that the words and phrases appeared in were….
The Terrors of the Night
Have with you to Saffron Walden
The Praise of the Red Herring
Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Devil.
Four Letters Confuted
Pierce Pennilesse (Twice!)
The Unfortunate Traveller
An Almond for a Parrott.
The Unfortunate Traveller
A Counter-Cuffe given to Martin Iunior
Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem
The Devil drives
[Note: Any Brother or Sister of The Shakespeare Code who would like page and line references to the McKerrow edition of Nashe, please place a request in the comment box at the end of this Post and Trixie the Cat will contact you.]
It is The Code’s belief that Nashe was initially hostile to Shakespeare……
…..and mocked him in a series of pamphlets…..
……together with his collaboarator, Thomas Kyd….
…..because they were…..
…i.e. Grammar School Boys….
….who had never gone to University and so couldn’t possibly be writers.
The Code argues that Shakespeare joined Lord Strange’s Men in the second half of the 1580s…..
…… and toured the Midlands as actor and writer….
…..but joined the Southampton family at the end of 1589 as tutor to the young Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton…..
…..and as ‘fac totum’ to the Earl’s mother, Mary Browne, 2nd Countess of Southampton…
Nashe was desperate for the Southampton patronage….
…(if you didn’t have money, you starved in the streets in Elizabeth’s England)….
….so he flattered Southampton….
….and attacked Shakespeare….
….but in the end collaborated with him.
Nashe was a satirist and stand-up comic who provided the jokes….
…..and many of the ideas……
….. in Shakespeare’s plays till he died in 1601.
Twelfth Night was his last collaboration in which he played Feste….
The Code shall return to these ideas in more detail later….
But first we have to clear the air of….
Step forward, Charles Nicholl…..
In his entry on Thomas Nashe in the new (ish) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he states, correctly, that Pierce Penilesse is dedicated to Ferdinando Lord Strange…..
…..whom he refers to as…..
….thrice noble Amyntas….
…..the Code Name of Lord Strange.
Amyntas started life as a gay Pastoral Shepherd in Virgil’s Second Eclogue….
…..a boyfriend of the Pastoral Shepherd and Sugar Daddy, Menalcas, who sends him ten golden apples….
However, the Latin poet, Thomas Watson – a close friend of Christopher Marlowe – had re-invented Amyntas as a heterosexual Pastoral Shepherd…..
…..the lover of the very beautiful, but very dead, Phyllis…..
So by then ‘Amyntas’ was an appropriate Code Name for Lord Strange to use.
So far, so good. But Nicholl goes on to write…..
It was also for Lord Strange (‘Lord S’) that Nashe wrote the mildly obscene verses known as ‘The Choise of Valentines’ or ‘Nash his Dildo’, described by Gabriel Harvey in early 1593 as ‘thy unprinted packet of bawdye and filthy rimes’…..
There is NO CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that ‘Lord S.’ is Lord Strange……
And in The Code’s view it is highly unlikely…..
Here is the Wikipedia synopsis of Nashe’s poem….
As it is Valentine’s Day, Tomalin goes to seek his flame, Mistress Frances, where she lives in the country, but discovers that she has been driven away by the local authorities and now resides in a brothel in the city. He enters the brothel, posing as a customer, and is offered other women by its Madame, but it is his lover that Tomalin really wants to see, even though it will cost him more. Tomalin is shown to Mistress Frances’ room and is greeted with reciprocal passion, but before penetrating her he suffers from premature ejaculation due to his excitement. Mistress Frances lends Tomalin a helping hand to revive his erection, and the two have sex. During intercourse, she admonishes Tomalin to slow down and sets a rhythm more amenable to her own sexual gratification. Tomalin eventually climaxes, and his lover appears to climax as well, but soon expresses that she is not fully satisfied, and resorts to using a dildo. After a long description of the dildo, Tomalin pays for the services rendered and leaves the brothel, asking the readers, “Judge, gentlemen, if I deserue not thanks?”
By 1592/3 – when The Choise of Valentines was written – Lord Strange was in his thirties, had three daughters, had been a Member of Parliament, the Mayor of Liverpool and the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire and Cheshire….
Nichol describes the poem as…
…but it is, in fact, VERY obscene……
….so obscene it wasn’t published till the end of the nineteenth century!
(1) Tomalin, the ‘hero’ of the poem, unable to maintain an erection, says…..
I kisse, I clap, I feele, I view at will,
Yett dead he lyes, not thinking good or ill.
“Unhappie me,” quoth shee [Frances, Tomalin’s mistress and prostitute], “and wilt’ not stand?
Com, lett me rubb and chafe it with my hand!”
(2) Frances, giving up on Tomalin’s flaccid penis and resorting to a dildo, says….
Adieu! faint-hearted instrument of lust;
That falselie hath betrayde our equale trust.
Hence-forth no more will I implore thine ayde,
Or thee, or man of cowardize upbrayde.
My little dilldo shall suply their kinde:
A knaue, that moues as light as leaues by winde;
That bendeth not, nor fouldeth anie deale,
But stands as stiff as he were made of steele;
Would Nashe really have sent this scabrous poem to Lord Strange – soon to become the Fifth Earl of Derby?
It is true that, in one of his own poems, Strange compares his Mistress’s breasts to….
Two apples bright….
…but in the end he takes a highly moralistic line on love-making….
For love is but a short delight
A life that death doth urge:
A sea of tears, of noble wits
An ever-lasting scourge:
A glass for fools to look into
A labyrinth of smart
A deadly wound which pierceth through
The sinews of the heart….
Also, would the commoner, Nashe, seven years his junior, really have addressed the aristocratic Lord Strange as….
…as he does in the Epilogue to the poem?
It is The Code’s belief that the ‘Lord S’ of the poem’s dedication is Lord Southampton ….
He was twenty years old when the poem was written….
….an age when men are less offended by being described as a friend, especially by a ‘famous’ writer seven years older…..
…and when men are more likely to be interested in pornography….
Indeed, a few years later William Burton openly dedicated The Most Delectable History of Clitiphon and Leucippe – a piece of sadistic, bisexual pornography – to the Earl of Southampton.
Harry was sexually active when he was twenty….
….but as we learn from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, he was more interested in masturbation and young men than he was in young women.
This was a problem, as his guardian, Lord Burghley……
……wanted him to marry his grand-daughter, Elizabeth de Vere….
If he didn’t, the Southampton family would have to pay a gigantic £5,000 fine.
Mary Southampton had commissioned Shakespeare to write seventeen sonnets for Harry’s seventeenth birthday….
….to persuade him of the joys of heterosexual sex and marriage.
Burghley got his secretary, John Clapham, to write Narcissus for Harry….
……which also chronicles the pleasures of straight sex….
…..and warns – as Shakespeare’s Sonnets do – of the perils of self-love….
It is The Code’s belief that Nashe’s erotic poem was also a commission from Mary to ‘heterosexualise’ her son….
…as was Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander….
Marlowe’s Leander sounds very much like Harry….
……..beautiful and young,
(whose tragedy divine Musaeus sung,)
Dwelt at Abydos; since him dwelt there none
For whom succeeding times make greater moan.
His dangling tresses, that were never shorn,
Had they been cut, and unto Colchos borne,
Would have allured the vent’rous youth of Greece
To hazard more than for the golden fleece.
The poem describes Leander’s swimming the Hellespont and naked arrival at the tower of the lovely Hero…
……who puts up a token resistance then engages in a night of blissful lovemaking.
But the whole poem nearly takes a wrong turning:
Gay old Neptune……
…. mistakes Leander for Ganymede, Jove’s cup-bearer and catamite….
….and nearly drowns him in his attempts to make love to him!
Nashe begins Choice of Valentines with a Dedication….
Pardon, sweete flower of Matchles poetrie,
And fairest bud the red rose euer bare….
Shakespeare also refers to Harry in Sonnet 1 as…
….and italicises the word Rose to isolate it and give it importance…..
He even refers to Southampton in Sonnet 109 as….
…and every time he mentions ‘Rose’ in the Sonnets, he capitalises the ‘R’.
Shakespeare and Nashe were both equating Harry with the Roses of Southampton….
Nashe describes The Choice of Valentines as
…a wanton elegie….
..but urges Southampton to accept it….
…….in gentle gree,
And better lynes, ere long shall honor thee.
This is EXACTLY THE SAME PROMISE Shakespeare makes in his Dedication to Harry of Venus and Adonis….
…..another erotic commission from Mary Southampton……
(who was still in control of Harry’s purse-strings…)
The poem shows Venus’s desperate attempt to seduce Adonis….
….who prefers to be off with the boys on a homo-erotic boar-hunt….
He ends up ‘dead’ – literally dead and/or sexually satisfied……
……when even the boar finds him so attractive he tries to seduce him….
‘T is true, ‘t is true ; thus was Adonis slain :
He ran upon the boar with his sharp spear,
Who did not whet his teeth at him again,
But by a kiss thought to persuade him there ;
And nuzzling in his flank, the loving swine
Sheath’d unaware the tusk in his soft groin.
In his Dedication to the poem, Shakespeare writes…..
I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart’s content; which I wish may always answer your own wish and the world’s hopeful expectation…
Shakespeare here denigrates what he has written – and promises to do better in the future.
If Southampton doesn’t like the verse, he will give up writing….
This is EXACTLY the sort of argument Nashe employs in the Epilogue to The Choice of Valentines.
Forgive me if I speake as I was taught,
A lyke to women, utter all I knowe,
As longing to unlade so bad a fraught.
My mynde once purg’d of such lasciuious witt,
With purifide words and hallowed verse,
Thy praises in large volumes shall rehearce,
That better maie thy grauer view befitt.
Meanewhile yett rests, you smile at what I write;
Or, for attempting, banish me your sight.
The ‘graver labour’ that Shakespeare produced was the more philosophical…..
….if sexually violent…
The work Nashe produced for Harry’s ‘graver view’ was, The Code believes, The Unfortunate Traveller….
…..based on the experiences Nashe, Harry and Shakespeare had on their visit to Europe in 1593….
(See: Shakespeare in Italy)
….and which is UNEQUIVOCALLY dedicated to Harry…
To the right Honorable Lord Henrie Wriothsley,
Earle of South-hampton and Baron
Ingenuous honorable Lord, I know not what blinde custome methodicall antiquity hath thrust vpon vs, to dedicate such books as we publish to one great man or other ; In which respect, least anie man should challenge these my papers as goods vncustomd, and so extend vppon them as forfeite to contempt, to the seale of your excellent censure loe here I present them to bee seene and allowed. Prize them as high or as low as you list: if you set anie price on them, I hold my labor well satisfide. Long haue I desired to approoue my wit vnto you….
And so it gushes on….
But the key phrase is when Nashe addresses Harry directly ….
….a dear lover and cherisher you are, as well of the lovers of Poets, as of Poets themselves….
The Shakespeare Code is of the firm conviction that that this is a reference to the complex love-triangle that was played out in Titchfield in 1592/3….
A love-triangle which is described in detail in Shakespeare’s Sonnets….
Shakespeare fell in love with the courtesan, musician and mistress of old Lord Hunsdon – Amelia Bassano – when she visited Cowdray as part of the Queen’s Progress in 1591….
The plague was rampant in London, so she stayed on at Titchfield to entertain Mary Southampton…
…and Shakespeare wrote entertainments for the family group in which Amelia – and women from the aristocratic classes – took part.
Harry was jealous of Shakespeare’s infatuation with Amelia……
….he wanted his tutor for himself.
So when Shakespeare asked Harry to plead his love-suit with Amelia, Harry allowed himself to be seduced by the ambitious Dark Lady….
….who preferred a handsome young aristocrat, however gay, to a balding, prematurely aging playwright….
Shakespeare was forced to admit to himself that he was more in love Harry than he was with Amelia…
And when Amelia fell pregnant Shakespeare and Harry began a passionate affair that lasted fifteen years….
Nashe, then, is referring to these painful events when he describes Harry as being a lover both of Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s mistress….
This Dedication was clearly too much for Harry. It was was removed from all subsequent editions of the book…..
The Code’s next Post will examine Nashe’s place in the Southampton establishment……
…what his scurrilous pamphlets tell us about Shakespeare himself….
…and how he collaborated with Shakespeare on Love’s Labour’s Won.