Over on our sister blog, ‘The View from the Hill’


…..is the obituary Stewart Trotter wrote in The Guardian for his dear friend, D. A. N. Jones….

…..the novelist and critic – who tragically died in a house fire fifteen years ago.

More memories of ‘Jonesy’ will follow….

R. I. P.


Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code

If you LOVE William Shakespeare…..

…….the odds are you will LOVE Jane Austen as well!

On our sister blog, The View from the Hill…..


…has just posted Teacher’s Pet….

….a review of D.D. Devlin’s Jane Austen and Education….

….which The Code’s Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter, penned for Ian Hamilton…..

…..who published it in The New Review….


Stewart believes that Mansfield Park is one of the greatest novels ever written….

….and its heroine, Fanny Price, one of the most mis-understood characters in fiction!

Here’s Billie Piper in the role……


Read how the part SHOULD have been played by clicking:


Here at The Shakespeare Code we are preparing for something amazing……

Your Cat will REVEAL ALL soon!

‘Bye, now….

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

It is with the greatest of pride that Trixie the Cat…..

…..and I…..

…..announce the creation of a SISTER BLOG to The Shakespeare Code…..




But why The View from the Hill?

Well, I’m at that stage in life when I’m certainly at the top of the hill on life’s journey…..

…..if not over it.

But the advantage is that you can look back on your life and onward to the life to come.

……will feature articles for newspapers and magazines I have written in the past – and reviews of current plays and books.

It will also feature reminiscences and observations.

And I plan to be as truthful as the laws of libel will allow me to be.

‘The Hill’ is also my beloved Maida Hill – where I have lived for nearly forty years.

For a long time I thought I lived in Maida Vale.

It took an American – the late great Dan Crawford, who ran the King’s Head Theatre in Islington…..

….to tell me otherwise.

But as the ‘Vale’ and the ‘Hill’ are both virtual anyway, the difference is academic….

….something I swear this blog will NEVER be!

When she is not too busy working at The Shakespeare Code offices, Trixie  the Cat will contribute pieces to The Hill.

Readers might like to start with Ruling Poses……

…..a review I wrote of the SCANDALOUS memoirs of Tom Driberg…..

….for the BBC’s The Listener

IN 1977!!!!


It’s best to read ‘Why did Shakespeare write All’s Well that Ends Well?’ 

Part One 


Part Two


Samuel Johnson wrote:

Parolles is a boaster and a coward, such as has always been the sport of the stage, but perhaps never raised more laughter or contempt than in the hands of Shakespeare.

Parolles – design by Osbert Lancaster.


Parolles has many of the lineaments of Falstaff and seems to be the character which Shakespeare delighted to draw, a fellow that has more of wit than virtue.

It is The Shakespeare Code’s belief that Parolles featured in the original Love’s Labour’s Won and has been re-written in All’s Well to make him darker and more loathsome.

He is sometimes similar to the braggart Spaniard, Armado, in Love’s Labour’s Lost…..

………who started off life as a satire on Sir Walter Raleigh…..

…….and even uses some of the same words and phrases.

But is the Parolles of All’s Well a satire as well?

The Code believes he is.

First of all, he is a satire on a ‘type’.

Harry Southampton had a taste for lower class young men, just as his mother had.

In his famous ‘They that have power to hurt’ Sonnet (94) Shakespeare warns Harry of the political, moral and sexual consequences of mixing with – and making love to – men outside his class.

It is better to masturbate than go to bed with a pleb!

The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself it only live and die

But if that flower with base infection meet

The basest weed outbraves his dignity.

‘Base infection’ here means both moral contamination and the very real chance of contracting venereal disease.

The final couplet graphically nails this idea home:

For sweetest things [!] turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Parolles contaminates Bertram.

Old Lafew describes him as…..

a snipt-taffeta fellow whose villanous saffron would have made all the unbaked and doughy youth of a nation in his colour

By the time Shakespeare came to write All’s Well, he had a real Captain in mind – Piers Edmondes.

A manuscript in the Marquis of Salisbury’s collection states:

Captain Piers Edmondes was also known to the Earl of Essex: he was so favoured as he often rode in a coach with him, and was wholly of his charges maintained, being a man of base birth in St. Clement’s Parish.

The Earl of Essex pursued a secret gay life from his own private bath house on the Strand…..

The Earl of Essex’s bath house in the Strand. It is said to still exist!

For a man to ride in a coach at the time was considered the height of effeminacy: for two men to ride together was an act of gross indecency. A….


…..according to Francis Bacon’s mother, was a synonym for a…..


During the trial of Essex and Southampton after the Rebellion a letter was produced from William Reynolds (probably brother of Essex’s secretary, Edward) in which he…

marvelled what had become of Piers Edmondes, the Earl of Essex’s man, born in the Strand near me, who had many preferements by the Earl. His villainy I have often complained of. He was Corporal General of the Horse in Ireland under the Earl of Southampton. He ate and drank at his table and lay in his tent. The Earl of Southampton gave him a horse which Edmunds refused a hundred marks for him, the Earl of Southampton would cole and huge [embrace and hug] him in his arms and play wantonly with him. This Piers began to fawn and flatter me in Ireland, offering me great courtesy, telling me what pay, graces and gifts the Earls bestowed upon him, thereby seeming to move and animate me to desire and look for the like favour.

Just after the Rebellion, Edmondes himself had written to a Mr. Wade, explaining that….

….he had spent 20 years in the Queen’s service and when his old hurts received in that service burst out afresh, he was enforced to come to London for remedy but two days before that dismal day [the Rebellion] by which mischance, being among his Lordship’s people innocently, he stands in the like danger they do.

Hugging and kissing Harry to get presents from him, fawning and flattering Reynoldes to recruit him as a rent boy, sucking up to the two Earls for cash and favours and explaining to Wade that he may have been physically present at the Essex Rebellion but was NOT part of it, is pure, pure Parolles.

Simply the thing he was made Edmondes live…..

Two Academic Footnotes:

(1) Samuel Taylor Coleridge…..

……loved the character of Helena but was disturbed that she told a lie when she said to the widow:

His face I know not.

This was not a lie – it was an equivocation!

The word…..


…….for the Elizabethans and Jacobeans could mean the genital area.

As King Lear says at the height of his madness and sexual disgust…..

Behold yon simpering dame whose face between her forks presages snow….

And as Shakespeare says in his own voice in Sonnet 94, in praise of chaste people who do not sleep around:

They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces

And husband nature’s riches from expense [seminal emission]

They are the lords and owners of their faces

Others but stewards of the excellence.

So, as Helena had not yet been to bed with her husband at that point in the play, she was telling ‘the truth’!

(2) The Shakespeare Code has established that the text of All’s Well has NINE words or phrases that Shakespeare never uses again – but which Thomas Nashe does……

…..once, twice and even three times!

See: Thomas Nashe was Shakespeare’s collaborator on ‘All’s Well that Ends Well.’

Thomas Nashe died in 1601 – which means that parts of the All’s Well text MUST have been written before that date.

This is further proof that All’s Well that Ends Well was originally entitled Love’s Labour’s Won…..

….and was first performed in Titchfield, at Christmas, in 1592.


It’s best to read: How Coleridge got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ right AND wrong!

….and: How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right! (Part One)


How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right! (Part Two)


Thomas Nashe was Shakespeare’s collaborator on ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’


Why did Shakespeare write ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ Part One.


Why did Shakespeare turn Bertram in to a psychopath?

The answer can again be found in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

They reveal an affair between Shakespeare and Harry that lasted from 1592…..

…….to 1605…..

There were infidelities and betrayals on both sides – lots of door-slamming and walk outs.

But the love survived Harry’s sudden onset of heterosexuality when he married Elizabeth Vernon – whom he adored…..

……and the birth of daughters.

It even survived the Essex Rebellion when Harry, along with his intimate friend the Earl of Essex, tried to overthrow Queen Elizabeth.

Essex was beheaded…….

…. and Harry, under sentence of death, was locked in the Tower.

What Shakespeare’s affair with Harry couldn’t survive, though, was the birth of a son to Elizabeth in 1605.

Shakespeare writes about this in Sonnet 126…..

O thou my lovely boy, who in thy power

Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle hour,

Who hast by waning grown, and therin shows

Thy lover’s withering as thy sweet self growst;

Shakespeare had used the phrase……

…..sweet self……

…..in his Birthday Sonnets, fifteen years earlier, to mean Harry’s baby boy.

By having a son, Harry is able, miraculously, to both wane and wax at the same time.

He will grow weaker as time passes, but his baby will grow stronger.

Harry, besotted with his son, had neglected Shakespeare and this had led to his…..

….lover’s [Shakespeare’s] withering’….

In fact Harry had done more than neglect Shakespeare: he had rejected him outright.

Harry had hoped to become King James’s new boyfriend when he was released from the Tower: but James preferred prettier, younger men. The Tower and illness had taken their toll on Harry’s good looks.

Pushed from the gay centre of power, Harry became bitterly homophobic. He wanted his son to grow up to be a brave, straight soldier.

Sir Philip Sidney…….


…….Harry’s hero…..

…… had demonstrated in his Arcadia that a man could dress up as a woman on one day….

……and kill a lion the next.

Prince Pyrocles – cross-dressed as the Amazon Warrior, Zalmena – prepares to kill a lion. (From Sir Philip Sidney’s ‘Arcadia’).

But times had changed.

Shakespeare, the Player, had to go.

In Sonnet 126 Shakespeare finally wishes death on Harry:

If nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,

As thou gowest onwards still will pluck thee back,

She keeps thee to this purpose: that her skill

May time disgrace, and wretched minute kill.

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure:

She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!

Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,

And her quietus is to render thee.

Dame Nature might be keeping him preternaturally young and beautiful, but in the end she will have to give him over to Old Father Time and


….him – break down his body – in the grave….

The brackets at the end of the ‘Sonnet’……

….which at 12 lines isn’t a Sonnet at all…..

…..indicate that lines are missing from the poem….

…..and represent the yawning family tomb waiting for Harry in St. Peter’s Church in Titchfield.


See: Sonnet 126 Decoded.

Shakespeare then went on to write his great, nihilistic masterpiece King Lear, in which an old King is thrown out of his Kingdom…..

……as Shakespeare had been thrown out of the Southampton household….

……and is left hurling impotent insults at the universe.

The play proclaims that nothing in life has worth.

Or if it does, it will be brutally snatched away…..

Shakespeare’s despair distilled into revenge…

He decided to publish all his private Sonnets to Harry……

…..the abusive ones as well as the loving ones……

…..and made sure that everyone knew that Harry was the recipient….

See: The Dedication to Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded

Shakespeare then turned his attention to Love’s Labour’s Won.

He re-wrote it as an attack on his old lover.

All of Bertram’s redeeming features in the Boccaccio tale are wiped out.

He is no longer

a goodly young gentleman…

…or even…

….a courteous knight well-beloved in the city.

He becomes an unredeemed brute, snobbish, selfish, manipulative, mendacious, lustful and foolish….

…..whom even his mother condemns and disowns.

To make sure the audience would know Bertram was Harry, all the actor would have needed was to enter with a wig with long curly hair…..


But Shakespeare flashes up Bertram’s identity in the text as well….

Bertram becomes a General of Horse: Harry was a General of Horse on the Irish campaign.

Bertram woos Diana with song: Harry, in Shakespeare’s mind at least, was…..

…..music to hear……

Bertram hates cats: Harry hated cats.

He had himself painted with one in the Tower to show he had mastered his passions.

See: The Earl of Southampton and Trixie the Cat.

But Shakespeare’s intention wasn’t solely revenge.

He makes a fascinating change to the Boccaccio tale by introducing Bertram’s mother, the Countess of Rossillion.

Dame Peggy Ashcroft as the Countess of Rossillion.

Countess Mary died in 1607……

…….the year scholars now think Shakespeare wrote the play……

…..and was entombed close to her first husband, the Second Count of Southampton, in the family vault of St. Peter’s, Titchfield.


Shakespeare clearly loved Mary, who gave him his first real chances in life.

He celebrates her warmth and her wisdom and even her Roman Catholicism.

She makes a coded reference to the Virgin Mary in the play, Bertram’s only hope!

What angel shall

Bless this unworthy husband? he cannot thrive,

Unless her prayers, whom heaven delights to hear

And loves to grant, reprieve him from the wrath

Of greatest justice.

This was something very dangerous for a playwright to do two years after the Roman Catholic Gunpowder Plot.

Shakespeare also acknowledges the remarkable part Count Mary played in his relationship with Harry.

In this re-write of Love’s Labour’s Won, Helena is clearly Shakespeare in drag.

Helena – design by Osbert Lancaster.

Boccaccio’s Helena is rich and independent: the All’s Well Helena is poor and vulnerable….

…..just as Shakespeare was when he joined the Southampton household in 1590.

When Helena says:

Twere all one

That I should love a bright particular star

And think to wed it, he is so above me:

In his bright radiance and collateral light

Must I be comforted, not in his sphere

…it could be Shakespeare himself speaking about Harry…..

….a point made by the visionary scholar Dover Wilson, in his Essential Shakespeare, as far back as the 1930s.

It is my belief that the remarkable scene in which Helena confesses her love to the Countess happened in real life….

…. and that Shakespeare confessed his love for Harry to Mary.

Early in her marriage, Countess Mary had fallen deeply in love with….

…..a common person…..

…..and her husband, Henry, the Second Count of Southampton…..

Photo of Second Earl of Southampton by Ross Underwood.

….disowned her and turned gay.

According to Countess Mary he made…

…His manservant his wife….

Mary swore in a letter to her father, Lord Montague……

…..England’s leading Roman Catholic….

…..that she had fallen in love with someone other than her husband……

…..but had never made love to him.

Helena, in the play, asks the Countess to empathise with her love for Bertram.

Had she herself ever loved passionately in her youth?

But restrained herself from acting out that love…..

….finding fulfilment in an act of non-fulfilment?

but if yourself,

Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,

Did ever in so true a flame of liking

Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Dian

Was both herself and love: O, then, give pity

To her, whose state is such that cannot choose

But lend and give where she is sure to lose;

That seeks not to find that her search implies,

But riddle-like lives sweetly where she dies!

The Countess, silently saying ‘yes’, gives her blessing to Helena’s liaison with her son…..

…..just as Mary gave hers to Shakespeare.

The Countess’s love had crossed barriers of class……

Shakespeare’s love crossed barriers of sex as well.

Shakespeare, in the play, was clearly examining his own feelings and behaviour. 

He had often been a ‘Helena’ in his relationship with Harry…..

……besotted, passive and accepting…….

……sometimes waiting for hours for Harry to turn up.


Being your slave, what should I do but tend

Upon the hours and times of your desires?

I have no precious time at all to spend,

Nor services to do, till your require:

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour

Wjhilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,

Nor think the bitterness of absence sour

When you have bid your servant once adieu. (Sonnet 57)

Had he been right to cast himself as a…


….and Harry as his….


As he was writing All’s Well, Shakespeare was also working on A Lover’s Complaint …..

……a narrative poem which concluded the volume of his Sonnets. 

Here he does something similar to All’s Well……

….he casts himself as another woman and Harry as another psychopath!

To make sure everyone knew it was Harry, he described his….

….browny locks

…..which hung…..

…..in crooked curls

And every light occasion of the wind

Upon his lips their silken parcels hurls…

The woman/Shakespeare describes her seducer’s….


…..like Harry/Bertram’s, as

…..an art of craft…..

She/he also observes that…

When he most burned in heart-wish’d luxury

He preached pure maid, and praised cold chastity.

But at the conclusion of the poem the woman – who is ‘the lover’ of the title   – claims that she would go through the whole affair again!

A Lover’s Complaint was published a year or two after the first performance of All’s Well.

Had Shakespeare reached the same, positive conclusion when he wrote the play?

Not quite.

He was still trying to establish the truth of things.

He admits that Bertram/Harry…..

……however appalling they are as lovers…..

……are brave and skilful on the field of war.

That is what redeems them.

As the First Lord, speaking in what is surely Shakespeare’s own voice, says:

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.

Also the Countess notices that, when Diana produces the ring that six generations of Bertram’s family have worn…..

…..and which he has traded in for a one-night stand with her…..

Bertram has the decency to blush.

So Harry was not entirely Satanic!

But what about Parolles?

Parolles – design by Osbert Lancaster.

To find out, click: HERE!


It’s best to read: How Coleridge got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ right AND wrong!

….and: How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right! (Part One)


How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right! (Part Two)


Thomas Nashe was Shakespeare’s collaborator on ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’


In the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson wrote:

I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram; a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helen as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate: when she is dead by his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a woman whom he has wronged, defends himself by falsehood, and is dismissed to happiness.

In the twentieth century, Arthur Quiller-Couch wrote :

We hold this play to be one of Shakespeare’s worst.

Even John Dover Wilson…..

…..the eminent Shakespearean who, in 1933, first suggested Shakespeare had been a teacher, factotum and entertainer for the Southampton family in Titchfield – wrote:

In the final scene it is hard to tell whether the verse or the sentiment it conveys is the more nauseating.

So is the play a failure?

It all depends on what Shakespeare was setting out to do….

Samuel Taylor Coleridge……

……the great poet and critic, was the first to suggest (in 1813) that…

All’s Well that Ends Well as it has come down to us, was written at two different and rather distant points of the poet’s life.

Coleridge thought that there were two distinct styles, not only of thought but of expression. This, The Shakespeare Code believes, also springs from the change in Shakespeare’s INTENTION from the first play to the second.

But what was this first play? And where and when was it performed?

The clue comes from a passage in Palladis Tamia, written by Francis Meres in 1598:

…..witness his  [Shakespeare’s]  Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love labors lost, his Love labors wonne, his Midsummers night dream, & his Merchant of Venice…

In All’s Well that Ends Well Helena says to Bertram:

Will you be mine, now you are doubly won?

…and the whole play rests on her heroic labours to make her husband love her.

It is The Code’s belief that Love’s Labour’s Won was the first version of All’s Well that Ends Well, that it was an answer to Love’s Labour’s Lost and, like that play, was performed in 1592 by a cast of professional actors and aristocrats (women as well as men) in private performance in Titchfield – to a commission from Mary Browne, Second Countess of Southampton.

See: ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ Revisited.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is a light hearted, satirical play in praise of heterosexual love.

But it does not resolve in marriage: the Princess of France’s father dies in the course of the action.

This is because Countess Mary’s father, Lord Montague….. 

…..and twin brother Anthony were both dying when the play was first performed at Whitsun.

A joyous ending to the play would have been totally inappropriate.

By December, though, both men were dead and it is highly probable from the title (though obviously we don’t have the text) that Love’s Labour’s Won was….

a Christmas comedy

…..that ended happily in love and marriage.

Given the bitterness of All’s Well that Ends Well, this may seem hard to believe: but Shakespeare’s source for the play – William Paynter’s translation of Boccaccio’s The Story of Giletta from his Decamerone – is a warm hearted romance, a fairy-story even….

‘Giletta’, who loves the ‘aimiable and fair’ Count Beltramo, [let’s call them Helena and Bertram from now on] is the rich and beautiful daughter of a celebrated Physician who has died.  Because Bertram is an aristocrat, he has to leave Rossillion and became the King’s Ward of Court.

Helena – who from childhood has loved him…..

 more than is meet for a woman of her age

 …..determines to follow him and win his hand in marriage.

She does this by curing the King’s fistula with one of her father’s prescriptions….

….and the help of God.

The King has promised her that she can have the husband of her choice if she succeeds in curing him, but is horrified when she chooses the aristocratic Count Bertram .

Bertram is also horrified at the thought of marrying a commoner , but obeys his King.

However, he rushes off to the wars without consummating the marriage and Countess Helena returns to Rossillion , which has fallen into disrepair because Bertram has been away.

She gains everyone’s respect by the way she restores Rossillion, then sends word to her husband that she is prepared to leave the city if her presence there means he will never return.

Bertram replies that he will only live with her when she has his ring – valued for its healing powers – in her possession and…..

 …a son in her arms begotten by me.

When she hears this, Helena leaves Rossillion so that he can return and, much to her subjects distress, sets off to become a Pilgrim.

By chance she encounters Bertram, from a distance, and learns he has fallen in love with another woman, respectable but poor.

Helena persuades the woman to gain Bertram’s ring as a token of his love, then, under cover of night, sleeps with her husband, posing as the woman he loves.  

God arranges it that Helena conceives and, when she knows she is pregnant, she and the woman, richly rewarded by Helena, leave the town .

Helena gives birth to twins and nurses them while Bertram, urged back by his subjects, returns to Rossillion.

One day he is about to celebrate the All Saints Festival when Helena arrives in her pilgrim’s clothes, with two sons, not one, in her arms and her husband’s ring.

Bertram is astonished at her ‘constant mind and good wit’, clothes her in a beautiful dress fit for a Countess and….

….kept great chere. From that time forth, hee loued and honoured her, as his dere spouse and wyfe.’

Bertram, in the Boccaccio story, is in a situation very similar to Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton (‘Harry Southampton’), the Countess Mary’s only son .

Harry, like Betram, had a father who had died and was a ward of court. He was eager, like Bertram, to go off to fight the wars and, also like Bertram, was being asked to wed against his will.

Lord Burghley, his guardian…….

…….wanted Harry to marry Elizabeth de Vere, his granddaughter…….

…..and was threatening to impose a tremendous £5,000 fine on the Southampton family.

But there was one major difference between Harry and the Bertram in the story:

Harry was gay!

Countess Mary had commissioned Shakespeare to write seventeen Sonnets for Harry’s seventeenth birthday in 1590, urging him to marry Elizabeth and father a son and heir.

See: Trixie the Cat’s guide to the Birthday Sonnets.

Mary had followed this up with another commission two years later – Love’s Labour’s Lost – in which a group of aristocratic men swear to give up the company of women to pursue their studies, but one by one succumb to their charms.

Shakespeare cast the dark-skinned musician and courtesan, Amelia Bassano – whom he had met and fallen in love with on the Queen’s Progress to Hampshire in 1591 – as the dark skinned coquette, Rosaline.

He cast himself as Berowne (a play on Countess Mary’s family name) as a Lord who attempts to seduce her…

After the show Amelia stayed on at Titchfield because the plague was raging in London and, as we know from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, art turned into life.

Harry was jealous of Amelia (he wanted to be the centre of Shakespeare’s attention) and when Shakespeare asked him to plead his love-suit with Amelia, Amelia swooped on Harry. Harry (despite himself) also swooped on Amelia.

A painful love-triangle ensued which ended in Amelia’s pregnancy and marriage to a minstrel ‘for colour’.  It also ended in Shakespeare’s own realisation he was more in love with the boy than he was with the girl.

But Shakespeare knew that, as an aristocrat, Harry had to get married and have a son. Shakespeare, after all, was married with children himself. So he was happy to pen Love’s Labour’s Won to please Countess Mary and celebrate the worth of women and the worth of marriage.

But why, in All’s Well that Ends Well, written fifteen years later, did Shakespeare turn Bertram/Harry into a psychopath – that is, someone displaying……

…….amoral and antisocial behaviour, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity and failure to learn from experience?

The King in the play even suspects Bertram of murder….

To find the answer, click: HERE!

It’s best to read: How Coleridge got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ right AND wrong!

….and: How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right! (Part One)


How John Dover Wilson got ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ NEARLY right! (Part Two)


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.

Jades’ tricks

The Unfortunate Traveller


Pierce Pennilesse.


A Counter-Cuffe given to Martin Iunior

Blazing star

Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem

The Devil drives

Pierce Pennilesse.

[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…

See: Shakespeare in Titchfield.

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….

‘Ricky Sharpe’ as Feste and Karen Gledhill F.S.C. as Viola.

See: Feste the Clown as Thomas Nashe

The Code shall return to these ideas in more detail later….

But first we have to clear the air of….

fake news….

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…

…mildly obscene….

…but it is, in fact, VERY obscene……

….so obscene it wasn’t published till the end of the nineteenth century!

Two samples….

(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….

….my friend….

…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 ….

Henry Wriothesley…..

….a.k.a. Harry….

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.

See: Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Birthday Sonnets.

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…

….beauty’s Rose….

….and italicises the word Rose to isolate it and give it importance…..

He even refers to Southampton in Sonnet 109 as….

…my Rose….

…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…


Titian’s ‘Rape of Lucrece’ which The Shakespeare Code believes inspired Shakespeare’s poem. The use of colours is identical.

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
of Tichfeeld.

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…..

To find out why Shakespeare wrote All’s Well that Ends Well please click: HERE!