What, apart from money, did William Shakespeare and Thomas Nashe gain from writing Love’s Labour’s Lost?
2. Self-justication, and…
Shakespeare wrote the part of Berowne…
He also played it…
Berowne is witty, sceptical, romantic and loyal…..
By playing him, Shakespeare is implying….
I am witty, sceptical, romantic and loyal as well….
In fact, the coterie audience at Titchfield would assume that Berowne was Shakespeare and that Shakespeare was Berowne.
In the same year as Love’s Labour’s Lost (1592) Henry Chettle wrote….
……my self have seen his [Shakespeare’s] demeanour no less civil than he excellent in the qualities he professes: besides, divers of worship [ie. the Southampton family] have reported his uprightness of dealing which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing, which approves his art….
John Aubrey, in the following century, was to write…
…he [Shakespeare] was a handsome, well-shaped man: very good company, and of a very ready and pleasant smooth wit….
Shakespeare was using the play to project an image of himself…..
Exactly the way Sir Noël Coward was to do four centuries later…..
Coward was a South London, lower class boy who passed himself off as a toff….
Shakespeare was a Warwickshire, yeoman class boy who passed himself off as a Lord..
By using the name ‘Berowne’ (after Mary Browne, the second Countess of Southampton) Shakespeare suggests that he is part of the Wriothesley family….
(He was related to them through his mother – but only distantly.)
Shakespeare even went on to purloin the silver falcon from the Wriothesley coat-of-arms for use on his own family crest….
(Please see: Shakespeare in Titchfield. A Summary of the Evidence. )
By writing and playing the part of the ‘well-educated infant’ , Moth….
….. (which is NEARLY ‘Thom’ backwards)…..
……Nashe was projecting his comic persona as….
(b) diminutive, and
……(Nashe, famously, could not grow facial hair)….
When he had played Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors he had used his ‘trademark’ name…..
As Moth he uses another of his ‘trademark’ names….
This was a play on the name of the Roman satirist, ‘Juvenal’…..
…..(a reference to Nashe’s satires)….
…..and the word ‘juvenile’….
…..(a reference to Nashe’s boyish appearance).
(Six years later, in 1598, Francis Meeres was to describe Nashe as ‘young Juvenal’, so clearly the self-promotion had worked….)
At one point Moth describes, to his penniless Spanish master, Don Armado..
…the best way of dressing when he comes to woo ‘the country wench’ Jaquenetta…
…..with your hat penthouse lik o’er the shop of your eyes, with your arms crossed on your thin-belly doublet like a rabbit on a spit, or your hands in your pocket, like a man after the old painting…..
The Editor of the handsome new Cambridge University Press edition of the play says that…
The syntax and and satiric images in Moth’s speech here bring it closer than anything else in the play to the satiric prose style of Thomas Nashe….
The Shakespeare Code would like to suggest that the speech is close to ‘the satiric prose style of Thomas Nashe’ because…
THOMAS NASHE WROTE IT!!!
At the beginning of Love’s Labour’s Lost the King and his Lords make a solemn vow that they will abjure the society of women and devote the next three years to fasting and study….
Then the lovely ladies turn up….
One by one, the men decide that there are other things they’d prefer to be doing rather than studying…
One of the main differences between Elizabethan Englishmen and Modern Englishmen is that vast majority of Elizabethan Englishmen believed they had a soul…
…..and to break a vow was to put your soul in danger….
Shakespeare, a Catholic and a married man, had fallen in love with ‘the dark lady’, Emilia Bassano….
He was therefore breaking his marriage vow….
……something which pre-occupies him in Sonnet 152….
In loving thee thou know’st I am foresworn….’
In Sonnet 142 he goes so far as to describe ‘loving’ Emilia as ‘sinful’….
(His gay sex with the Earl of Southampton doesn’t seem to have struck him as ‘sinful’ at all. Rather the reverse…)
So when Berowne concocts an elaborate justification for the Lords breaking their vows, he is also justifying his own infidelity….
Everyone in Titchfield would have known he was married to Anne…
But there was another vow that the Love’s Labour’s Lost audience had all made….
Their Vow of Allegiance to Queen Elizabeth….
Also there was the Earl of Leicester’s 1584 ‘Bond of Association’ which thousands of gentlemen had signed….
In this they swore to protect the Queen from any rebellion…
Many were starting to turn to think, now, about rebelling against Elizabeth themselves…
So they needed a strong justification for going back on their word….
Years ago the Pope had absolved Catholics who broke their Vows of Allegiance to Queen Elizabeth…..
In fact he actively encouraged them to do so…
But Shakespeare, in the play, was now giving a justification to Catholics and Protestants alike..
His basic argument was that if you swear to a course of action on a mis-guided principle, that vow becomes invalid….
Shakespeare, by offering this argument, was also obliquely explaining why, though he was a Catholic, he could never become a fanatical one…
…nor could he write the religious verse that the Jesuit Robert Southwell…..
……was begging him to write….
When the Lords in the play set up their rules for their ‘Academy’ – abstinence, chastity and mortification of the flesh – they are very similar to the rules of the Jesuit seminaries set up at Douai and Rheims…
Brave young English Catholics were sent there in secret, fast-tracked to ordination and returned to England and almost certain death…
But Berowne explains that the Lords of Navarre are not cut out for that sort of life…
Only God can chose his martyrs…
And even his ascetics…
As Berowne says….
…..every man with his affects [passions] is born,
Not by might mastered but by special grace….
i.e. the grace of God….
Shakespeare is admitting that he could never be celibate…
In fact he goes on to say in Sonnet 121….
I am that I am, and they that level at my abuses
Reckon up their own…
…..an open declaration of his complex sexuality….
….which Meeres confirms when he describes Shakespeare as…
…..one of the most passionate among us to bewail and bemoan the perplexities of love…
Shakespeare later developed into a great tragedian…
But at the time of Love’s Labour’s Lost, he was loved by his aristocratic public for being in love….
And for advocating love’s power in his play…
And when love speaks, the voice of the Gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony…
Playing Berowne also gives Shakespeare the chance to score one over on his collaborator – and deadly rival – Nashe.
Nashe was always condemning Shakespeare, in code, for being a mere grammar school boy with no real learning at all….
Berowne demonstrates that you can learn more from life – and from being in love – than you can ever learn from a book….
Small have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority from others’ books….
Nashe, everyone agreed, was ‘famous’….
But the other thing they all agreed on, was that he was ‘poor’…
So poor that once he and a friend had only one pair of trousers between them…
They had to take it in turns to leave the house….
Nashe needed to justify his poverty…..
And did so by blaming others….
He was poor, not because he was untalented….
He was poor because his patrons were mean…
In the play, the pageboy Moth is brilliant, quick and precocious….
But his master, Don Armado, is innumerate, stupid and impoverished…
He is holding Moth back….
Just the way Nashe’s patrons were all holding him back…
Who they were….
And how he got his revenge on his enemies…
And how Shakespeare got his revenge on his…
We shall see in the next post….