Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown, by Andrew Lang

Chapter iii

That Impossible he — The Schooling of Shakespeare

The banner-cry of the Baconians is the word “Impossible!” It is impossible that the actor from Stratford (as they think of him, a bookless, untutored lad, speaking in patois) should have possessed the wide, deep, and accurate scholarship displayed by the author of the plays and poems. It is impossible that at the little Free School of Stratford (if he attended it), he should have gained his wide knowledge of the literatures of Greece and Rome. To these arguments, the orthodox Stratfordian is apt to reply, that he finds in the plays and poems plenty of inaccurate general information on classical subjects, information in which the whole literature of England then abounded. He also finds in the plays some knowledge of certain Latin authors, which cannot be proved to have been translated at the date when Shakespeare drew on them. How much Latin Shakespeare knew, in our opinion, will presently be explained.

But, in reply to the Baconians and the Anti–Willians, we must say that while the author of the plays had some lore which scholars also possessed, he did not use his knowledge like a scholar. We do not see how a scholar could make, as the scansion of his blank verse proves that the author did make, the second syllable of the name of Posthumus, in Cymbeline, long. He must have read a famous line in Horace thus,

“Eheu fugaces Posthoome, Posthoome!”

which could scarce ‘scape whipping, even at Stratford Free School. In the same way he makes the penultimate syllable of Andronicus short, equally impossible.

Mr. Greenwood, we shall see, denies to him Titus Andronicus, but also appears to credit it to him, as one of the older plays which he “revised, improved, and dressed,” 38 and THAT is taken to have been all his “authorship” in several cases. A scholar would have corrected, not accepted, false quantities. In other cases, as when Greeks and Trojans cite Plato and Aristotle in Troilus and Cressida, while Plato and Aristotle lived more than a thousand years after the latest conceivable date of the siege of Troy, I cannot possibly suppose that a scholar would have permitted to himself the freak, any more than that in The Winter’s Tale he should have borrowed from an earlier novel the absurdity of calling Delphi “Delphos” (a non~existent word), of confusing “Delphos” with Delos, and placing the Delphian Oracle in an island. In the same play the author, quite needlessly, makes the artist Giulio Romano (1492–1546) contemporary with the flourishing age of the oracle of the Pythian Apollo. This, at least, would not be ignorance.

We have, I think, sufficient testimony to Ben’s inability to refrain from gibes at Shakspere’s want of scholarship. Rowe, who had traditions of Davenant’s, tells how, in conversation with Suckling, Davenant, Endymion Porter, and Hales of Eton, Ben harped on Will’s want of learning; and how Hales snubbed him. Indeed, Ben could have made mirth enough out of The Winter’s Tale. For, granting to Mr. Greenwood 39 that “the mention of Delphos suggests the Bohemia of a much earlier date, and under the reign of Ottocar (1255–78) Bohemia extended from the Adriatic to the shores of the Baltic,” that only makes matters far worse. “Delphos” never was a place-name; there was no oracle on the isle of “Delphos”; there were no Oracles in 1255–78 (A.D.); and Perdita, who could have sat for her portrait to Giulio Romano, was contemporary with an Oracle at Delphos, but not with Ottocar.

There never was so mad a mixture, not even in Ivanhoe; not even in Kenilworth. Scott erred deliberately, as he says in his prefaces; but Will took the insular oracle of Delphos from Greene, inserted Giulio Romano “for his personal diversion,” never heard of Ottocar (no more than I), and made a delightful congeries of errors in gaiety of heart. Nobody shall convince me that Francis Bacon was so charmingly irresponsible; but I cannot speak so confidently of Mr. Greenwood’s Great Unknown, a severe scholar, but perhaps a frisky soul. There was no region called Bohemia when the Delphic oracle was in vigour — this apology (apparently contrived by Sir Edward Sullivan) is the most comic of erudite reflections.

Some cruel critic has censured the lovely speech of Perdita, concerning the flowers which Proserpine let fall, when she was carried off by Dis. How could she, brought up in the hut of a Bohemian shepherd, know anything of the Rape of Proserpine? Why not, as she lived in the days of the Delphic Oracle — and Giulio Romano, and of printed ballads.

It is impossible, Baconians cry, that the rabbit-stealer, brought up among the Audreys and Jaquenettas of Warwickshire, should have created the noble and witty ladies of the Court; and known the style of his Armado; and understood how dukes and kings talk among themselves — usually in blank verse, it appears.

It is impossible that the home-keeping yokel should have heard of the “obscure” (sic!) Court of Navarre; and known that at Venice there was a place called the Rialto, and a “common ferry” called “the tranect.” It is impossible that he should have had “an intimate knowledge of the castle of Elsinore,” though an English troupe of actors visited Denmark in 1587. To Will all this knowledge was impossible; for these and many more exquisite reasons the yokel’s authorship of the plays is a physical impossibility. But scholars neither invent nor tolerate such strange liberties with time and place, with history, geography, and common sense. Will Shakspere either did not know what was right, or, more probably, did not care, and supposed, like Fielding in the old anecdote, that the audience “would not find it out.” How could a scholar do any of these things? He was as incapable of them as Ben Jonson. Such sins no scholar is inclined to; they have, for him, no temptations.

As to Shakspere’s schooling, the Baconians point at the current ignorance of Stratford-on-Avon, where many topping burgesses, even aldermen, “made their marks,” in place of signing their names to documents. Shakespeare’s father, wife, and daughter “made their marks,” in place of signing. So did Lady Jane Gordon, daughter of the Earl of Huntly, when she married the cultivated Earl of Bothwell (1566).

There is no evidence, from a roll of schoolboys at Stratford Free Grammar School, about 1564–77, that any given boy attended it; for no roll exists. Consequently there is no evidence that Will was a pupil.

“In the Appendix to Malone’s Life of Shakespeare will be found two Latin letters, written by alumni of Stratford School contemporary with Shakespeare,” says Mr. Collins. 40 But though the writers were Stratford boys contemporary with Shakespeare, in later life his associates, as there is no roll of pupils’ names how do we know, the Baconians may ask, that these men were educated at Stratford School? Why not at Winchester, Eton, St. Paul’s, or anywhere? Need one reply?

Mr. Collins goes on, in his simple confiding way, to state that “one letter is by Abraham Sturley, afterwards an alderman of Stratford . . . “ Pursuing the facts, we find that Sturley wrote in Latin to “Richard Quiney, Shakespeare’s friend,” who, if he could read Sturley’s letter, could read Latin. Then YOUNG Richard Quiney, apparently aged eleven, wrote in Latin to his father. If young Richard Quiney be the son of Shakespeare’s friend, Richard Quiney, then, of course, his Latin at the age of eleven would only prove that, if he were a schoolboy at Stratford, ONE Stratford boy could write Latin in the generation following that of Shakespeare. Thus may reason the Baconians.

Perhaps, however, we may say that if Stratford boys contemporary with Shakspere, in his own rank and known to him, learned Latin, which they retained in manhood, Shakspere, if he went to school with them, may have done as much.

Concerning the school, a Free Grammar School, we know that during Shakespeare’s boyhood the Mastership was not disdained by Walter Roche, perhaps a Fellow of what was then the most progressive College in learning of those at Oxford, namely, Corpus Christi. That Shakespeare could have been his pupil is uncertain; the dates are rather difficult. I think it probable that he was not, and we do not know the qualifications of the two or three succeeding Masters.

As to the methods of teaching and the books read at Grammar Schools, abundance of information has been collected. We know what the use was in one very good school, Ipswich, from 1528; in another in 1611; but as we do not possess any special information about Stratford School, Mr. Greenwood opposes the admission of evidence from other academies. A man might think that, however much the quality of the teaching varied in various free schools, the nominal curriculum would be fairly uniform.

As to the teacher, a good endowment would be apt to attract a capable man. What was the endowment of Stratford School? It was derived from the bequest of Thomas Jolyffe (died 1482), a bequest of lands in Stratford and Dodwell, and before the Reformation the Brethren of the Guild were “to find a priest fit and able in knowledge to teach grammar freely to all scholars coming to him, taking nothing for their teaching . . . “ “The Founder’s liberal endowment made it possible to secure an income for the Master by deed. Under the Reformation, Somerset’s Commission found that the School Master had 10 pounds yearly by patent; the school was well conducted, and was not confiscated.” 41

Baconians can compare the yearly 20 pounds (the salary in 1570–6, which then went much further than it does now) with the incomes of other masters of Grammar Schools, and thereby find out if the Head~Master was very cheap. Mr. Elton (who knew his subject intimately) calls the provision “liberal.” The Head–Master of Westminster had 20 pounds and a house.

As to the method of teaching, it was colloquial; questions were asked and answered in Latin. This method, according to Dr. Rouse of Perse School, brings boys on much more rapidly than does our current fashion, as may readily be imagined; but experts vary in opinion. The method, I conceive, should give a pupil a vocabulary. Lilly’s Latin Grammar was universally used, and was learned by rote, as by George Borrow, in the last century. See Lavengro for details. Conversation books, Sententiae Pueriles, were in use; with easy books, such as Corderius’s Colloquia, and so on, for boys were taught to SPEAK Latin, the common language of the educated in Europe. Waifs of the Armada, Spaniards wrecked on the Irish coast, met “a savage who knew Latin,” and thus could converse with him. The Eclogues of Mantuanus, a Latin poet of the Renaissance (the “Old Mantuan” of Love’s Labour’s Lost), were used, with Erasmus’s Colloquia, and, says Mr. Collins, “such books as Ovid’s Metamorphoses” (and other works of his), “the AEneid, selected comedies of Terence and Plautus, and portions of Caesar, Sallust, Cicero, and Livy.”

“Pro-di-gi-ous!” exclaims Mr. Greenwood, 42 referring to what Mr. Collins says Will had read at school. But precocious Latinity was not thought “prodigious” in an age when nothing but Latin was taught to boys — not even cricket. Nor is it to be supposed that every boy read in all of these authors, still less read all of their works, but these were the works of which portions were read. It is not prodigious. I myself, according to my class-master, was “a bad and careless little boy” at thirteen, incurably idle, but I well remember reading in Ovid and Caesar, and Sallust, while the rest of my time was devoted to the total neglect of the mathematics, English “as she was taught,” History, and whatsoever else was expected from me. Shakespeare’s time was not thus frittered away; Latin was all he learned (if he went to school), and, as he was (on my theory) a very clever, imaginative kind of boy, I can conceive that he was intensely interested in the stories told by Ovid, and in Catiline’s Conspiracy (thrilling, if you know your Sallust); and if his interest were once aroused, he would make rapid progress. My own early hatred of Greek was hissing and malignant, but as soon as I opened Homer, all was changed. One was intensely interested!

Mr. Greenwood will not, in the matter of books, go beyond Mr. Halliwell–Phillipps, 43 “Lilly’s Grammar, and a few classical works chained to the desks of the free schools.” Mr. Collins himself gives but “a few classical books,” of which PORTIONS were read. The chains were in all the free schools, if Mr. Halliwell–Phillipps is right. The chains, if authentic, do not count as objections.

Here it must be noted that Mr. Greenwood’s opinion of Will’s knowledge and attainments is not easily to be ascertained with precision. He sees, of course, that the pretension of the extreme Baconians — Will could not even write his name — is absurd. If he could not write, he could not pass as the author. Mr. Greenwood “fears that the arguments” (of a most extreme Baconian) “would drive many wandering sheep back to the Stratfordian fold.” 44

He has therefore to find a via media, to present, as the pseudo~author, a Will who possessed neither books nor manuscripts when he made his Testament; a rustic, bookless Will, speaking a patois, who could none the less pass himself off as the author. So “I think it highly probable,” says Mr. Greenwood, “that he attended the Grammar School at Stratford for four or five years, and that, later in life, after some years in London, he was probably able to ‘bumbast out a line,’ and perhaps to pose as ‘Poet–Ape who would be thought our chief.’” 45 Again, “He had had but little schooling; he had ‘small Latin and less Greek’; but he was a good Johannes Factotum, he could arrange a scene, and, when necessary, ‘bumbast out a blank verse.’” 46

But this is almost to abandon Mr. Greenwood’s case. Will appears to me to be now perilously near acceptance as Greene’s “Shake-scene,” who was a formidable rival to Greene’s three professional playwrights: and quite as near to Ben’s Poet–Ape “that would be thought our chief,” who began by re-making old plays; then won “some little wealth and credit on the scene,” who had his “works” printed (for Ben expects them to reach posterity), and whom Ben accused of plagiarism from himself and his contemporaries. But this Shake~scene, this Poet–Ape, is merely our Will Shakespeare as described by bitterly jealous and envious rivals. Where are now the “works” of “Poet–Ape” if they are not the works of Shakespeare which Ben so nobly applauded later, if they are not in the blank verse of Greene’s Shake-scene? “Shakespeare’s plays” we call them.

WHEN was it “necessary” for the “Stratford rustic” to “bumbast out a blank verse”? Where are the blank verses which he bumbasted out? For what purposes were they bumbasted? By 1592 “Shake-scene” was ambitious, and thought his blank verse as good as the best that Greene’s friends, including Marlowe, could write. He had plenty of time to practise before the date when, as Ben wrote, “he would be thought our chief.” He would not cease to do that in which he conceived himself to excel; to write for the stage.

When once Mr. Greenwood deems it “highly probable” that Will had four or five years of education at a Latin school, Will has as much of “grounding” in Latin, I think, as would account for all the knowledge of the Roman tongue which he displays. His amount of teaching at school would carry and tempt even a boy who was merely clever, and loved to read romantic tales and comic plays, into Ovid and Plautus — English books being to him not very accessible.

Here I may speak from my own memories, for though utterly idle where set school tasks were concerned, I tried very early to worry the sense out of Aristophanes — because he was said to contain good reading.

To this amount of taste and curiosity, nowise unexampled in an ordinary clever boy, add GENIUS, and I feel no difficulty as to Will’s “learning,” such as, at best, it was. “The Stratfordian,” says Mr. Greenwood, “will ingeminate ‘Genius! Genius!’” 47 I DO say “Genius,” and stand by it. The ordinary clever boy, in the supposed circumstances, could read and admire his Ovid (though Shakespeare used cribs also), the man of genius could write Venus and Adonis.

Had I to maintain the Baconian hypothesis, I would not weigh heavily on bookless Will’s rusticity and patois. Accepting Ben Jonson’s account of his “excellent phantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility . . .,” accepting the tradition of his lively wit; admitting that he had some Latin and literature, I would find in him a sufficiently plausible mask for that immense Unknown with a strange taste for furbishing up older plays. I would merely deny to Will his GENIUS, and hand THAT over to Bacon — or Bungay. Believe me, Mr. Greenwood, this is your easiest way! — perhaps this IS your way? — the plot of the unscrupulous Will, and of your astute Bungay, might thus more conceivably escape detection from the pack of envious playwrights.

According to “all tradition,” says Mr. Greenwood, Shakespeare was taken from school at the age of thirteen. Those late long-descended traditions of Shakespeare’s youth are of little value as evidence; but, if it pleases Mr. Greenwood, I will, for the sake of argument, accept the whole of them. Assuredly I shall not arbitrarily choose among the traditions: all depends on the genealogical steps by which they reach us, as far as these can be discovered. 48

According to the tattle of Aubrey the antiquary, publishing in 1680, an opinion concerning Shakspere’s education reached him. It came thus; there had been an actor in Shakspere’s company, one Phillips, who, dying in 1605, left to Shakspere the usual thirty-shilling piece of gold; and the same “to my servant, Christopher Beeston.” Christopher’s son, William, in 1640, became deputy to Davenant in the management of “the King’s and Queen’s Young Company”, and through Beeston, according to Aubrey, Davenant learned; through Beeston Aubrey learned, that Shakespeare “understood Latin pretty well, for he had been in his younger days a school-master in the country.” Aubrey writes that “old Mr. Beeston, whom Mr. Dryden calls ‘the chronicle of the stage,’” died in 1682. 49

This is a fair example of the genealogy of the traditions. Phillips, a friend of Shakspere, dies in 1605, leaving a servant, Christopher Beeston (he, too, was a versifier), whose son, William, dies in 1682; he is “the chronicle of the stage.” Through him Davenant gets the story, through him Aubrey gets the story, that Shakspere “knew Latin pretty well,” and had been a rural dominie. Mr. Greenwood 50 devotes much space to disparaging Aubrey (and I do not think him a scientific authority, moult s’en faut), but Mr. Greenwood here says not a word as to the steps in the descent of the tradition. He frequently repeats himself, thereby forcing me to more iteration than I like. He had already disparaged Aubrey in note I to p. 105, but there he approached so closely to historical method as to say that “Aubrey quotes Beeston, a seventeenth-century actor, as his authority.” On p. 209 he dismisses the anecdote (which does not suit his book) as “a mere myth.” “HE knows, HE knows” which traditions are mythical, and which possess a certain historical value.

My own opinion is that Shakspere did “know Latin pretty well,” and was no SCHOLAR, as his contemporaries reckoned scholarship. He left school, if tradition speak true, by a year later than the age, twelve, when Bacon went to Cambridge. Will, a clever kind of lad (on my theory), left school at an age when some other clever lads became freshmen. Why not? Gilbert Burnet (of whom you may have heard as Bishop of Salisbury under William III) took his degree at the age of fourteen.

Taking Shakspere as an extremely quick, imaginative boy, with nothing to learn but Latin, and by the readiest road, the colloquial, I conceive him to have discovered that, in Ovid especially, were to be found the most wonderful and delightful stories, and poetry which could not but please his “green unknowing youth.” In the years before he left Stratford, and after he left school (1577–87?), I can easily suppose that he was not ALWAYS butchering calves, poaching, and making love; and that, if he could get books in no other way, this graceless fellow might be detected on a summer evening, knitting his brows over the stories and jests of the chained Ovid and Plautus on his old schoolroom desk. Moi qui parle, I am no genius; but stories, romance, and humour would certainly have dragged me back to the old desks — if better might not be, and why not Shakspere? Put yourself in his place, if you have ever been a lad, and if, as a lad, you liked to steal away into the world of romance, into fairyland.

If Will wrote the plays, he (and indeed whoever wrote the plays) was a marvel of genius. But I am not here claiming for him genius, but merely stating my opinion that if he were fond of stories and romance, had no English books of poetry and romance, and had acquired as much power of reading Latin as a lively, curious boy could easily gain in four years of exclusively Latin education, he might continue his studies as he pleased, yet be, so far, no prodigy.

I am contemplating Will in the conditions on which the Baconians insist; if they will indeed let us assume that for a few years he was at a Latin school. I credit the graceless loon with the curiosity, the prompt acquisitiveness, the love of poetry and romance, which the author of the plays must have possessed in youth. “Tradition says nothing of all that,” the Baconian answers, and he may now, if he likes, turn to my reply in The Traditional Shakespeare. 51 Meanwhile, how can you expect old clerks and sextons, a century after date, in a place where literature was NOT of supreme interest, to retain a tradition that Will used to read sometimes (if he did), in circumstances of privacy? As far as I am able to judge, had I been a boy at Stratford school for four years, had been taught nothing but Latin, and had little or no access to English books of poetry and romance, I should have acquired about the same amount of Latin as I suppose Shakspere to have possessed. Yet I could scarcely, like him, have made the second syllable in “Posthumus” long! Sir Walter Scott, however, was guilty of similar false quantities: he and Shakspere were about equally scholarly.

I suppose, then, that Shakspere’s “small Latin” (as Jonson called it) enabled him to read in the works of the Roman clerks; to read sufficient for his uses. As a fact, he made use of English translations, and also of Latin texts. Scholars like Bacon do not use bad translations of easy Latin authors. If Bacon wanted Plutarch, he went to Plutarch in Greek, not to an English translation of a French translation of a Latin translation.

Some works of Shakespeare, the Lucrece, for example, and The Comedy of Errors (if he were not working over an earlier canvas from a more learned hand), and other passages, show knowledge of Latin texts which in his day had not appeared in published translations, or had not been translated at all as far as we know. In my opinion Will had Latin enough to puzzle out the sense of the Latin, never difficult, for himself. He could also “get a construe,” when in London, or help in reading, from a more academic acquaintance: or buy a construe at no high ransom from some poor scholar. No contemporary calls him scholarly; the generation of men who were small boys when he died held him for no scholar. The current English literature of his day was saturated with every kind of classical information; its readers, even if Latinless, knew, or might know a world of lore with which the modern man is seldom acquainted. The ignorant Baconian marvels: the classically educated Baconian who is not familiar with Elizabethan literature is amazed. Really there is nothing worthy of their wonder.

Does any contemporary literary allusion to Shakespeare call him “LEARNED”? He is “sweet,” “honey-tongued,” “mellifluous,” and so forth, but I ask for any contemporary who flattered him with the compliment of “learned.” What Ben Jonson thought of his learning (but Ben’s standard was very high), what Milton and Fuller, boys of eight when he died, thought of his learning, we know. They thought him “Fancy’s child” (Milton) and with no claims to scholarship (Fuller), with “small Latin and less Greek” (Jonson). They speak of Shakespeare the author and actor; not yet had any man divided the persons.

Elizabethan and Jacobean scholarly poets were widely read in the classics. They were not usually, however, scholars in the same sense as our modern scholarly poets and men of letters; such as Mr. Swinburne among the dead, and Mr. Mackail and Sir Gilbert Murray — if I may be pardoned for mentioning contemporary names. But Elizabethan scholarly poets, and Milton, never regarded Shakespeare as learned. Perhaps few modern men of letters who are scholars differ from them. The opinion of Mr. Collins is to be discussed presently, but even he thought Shakespeare’s scholarship “inexact,” as we shall see.

I conceive that Shakspere “knew Latin pretty well,” and, on Ben Jonson’s evidence, he knew “less Greek.” That he knew ANY Greek is surprising. Apparently he did, to judge from Ben’s words. My attitude must, to the Baconians, seem frivolous, vexatious, and evasive. I cannot pretend to know what was Shakspere’s precise amount of proficiency in Latin when he was writing the plays. That between his own knowledge, and construes given to him, he might easily get at the meaning of all the Latin, not yet translated, which he certainly knew, I believe.

Mr. Greenwood says “the amount of reading which the lad Shakspere must have done, and assimilated, during his brief sojourn at the Free School is positively amazing.” 52 But I have shown how an imaginative boy, with little or no access to English poetry and romances, might continue to read Latin “for human pleasure” after he left school. As a professional writer, in a London where Latinists were as common as now they are rare in literary society, he might read more, and be helped in his reading. Any clever man might do as much, not to speak of a man of genius. “And yet, alas, there is no record or tradition of all this prodigious industry. . . . “ I am not speaking of “prodigious industry,” and of that — at school. In a region so non-literary as, by his account, was Stratford, Mr. Greenwood ought not to expect traditions of Will’s early reading (even if he studied much more deeply than I have supposed) to exist, from fifty to seventy years after Will was dead, in the memories of the sons and grandsons of country people who cared for none of these things. The thing is not reasonable. 53

Let me take one example 54 of what Mr. E. A. Sonnenschein is quoted as saying (somewhere) about Shakespeare’s debt to Seneca’s then untranslated paper De Clementia (1, 3, 3; I, 7, 2; I, 6, I). It inspires Portia’s speech about Mercy. Here I give a version of the Latin.

“Clemency becometh, of all men, none more than the King or chief magistrate (principem) . . . No one can think of anything more becoming to a ruler than clemency . . . which will be confessed the fairer and more goodly in proportion as it is exhibited in the higher office . . . But if the placable and just gods punish not instantly with their thunderbolts the sins of the powerful, how much more just it is that a man set over men should gently exercise his power. What? Holds not he the place nearest to the gods, who, bearing himself like the gods, is kind, and generous, and uses his power for the better? . . . Think . . . what a lone desert and waste Rome would be, were nothing left, and none, save such as a severe judge would absolve.”

The last sentence is fitted with this parallel in Portia’s speech:

    “Consider this

That in the course of Justice none of us

Should see salvation.”

Here, at least, Protestant theology, not Seneca, inspires Portia’s eloquence.

Now take Portia:

“The quality of Mercy is not strain’d;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes;”

(Not much Seneca, so far!)

“’Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But Mercy is above this sceptred sway,

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,

When mercy seasons justice . . . ”

There follows the passage about none of us seeing salvation, already cited, and theological in origin.

Whether Shakespeare could or could not have written these reflections, without having read Seneca’s De Clementia, whether, if he could not conceive the ideas “out of his own head,” he might not hear Seneca’s words translated in a sermon, or in conversation, or read them cited in an English book, each reader must decide for himself. Nor do I doubt that Shakespeare could pick out what he wanted from the Latin if he cast his eye over the essay of the tutor of Nero.

My view of Shakespeare’s Latinity is much like that of Sir Walter Raleigh. 55 As far as I am aware, it is the opinion usually held by people who approach the subject, and who have had a classical education. An exception was the late Mr. Churton Collins, whose ideas are discussed in the following chapter.

In his youth, and in the country, Will could do what Hogg and Burns did (and Hogg had no education at all; he was self-taught, even in writing). Will could pick up traditional, oral, popular literature. “His plays,” says Sir Walter Raleigh, “are extraordinarily rich in the floating debris of popular literature — scraps and tags and broken ends of songs and ballads and romances and proverbs. In this respect he is notable even among his contemporaries. . . . Edgar and Iago, Petruchio and Benedick, Sir Toby and Pistol, the Fool in Lear and the Grave-digger in Hamlet, even Ophelia and Desdemona, are all alike singers of old songs. . . . “ 56 He is rich in rural proverbs NOT recorded in Bacon’s Promus.

Shakespeare in the country, like Scott in Liddesdale, “was making himself all the time.”

The Baconian will exclaim that Bacon was familiar with many now obsolete rural words. Bacon, too, may have had a memory rich in all the tags of song, ballad, story, and DICTON. But so may Shakespeare.

38 The Shakespeare Problem Restated, p. 356.

39 In Re Shakespeare, p. 88, note I.

40 Studies in Shakespeare, p. 15; Life of Shakespeare, by Malone, pp. 561–2, 564; Appendix, XI, xvi.

41 C. I. Elton, William Shakespeare, His Family and Friends, pp. 97, 98.

42 The Shakespeare Problem Restated, p. 44.

43 The Shakespeare Problem Restated, p. 39.

44 Vindicators of Shakespeare, p. 210.

45 Vindicators of Shakespeare, p. 187.

46 Shakespeare Problem Restated, p. 223.

47 The Shakespeare Problem Restated, p. 69.

48 See chapter X, The Traditional Shakespeare.

49 See C. I. Elton, William Shakespeare, His Family and Friends, pp. 48, 343–8.

50 The Shakespeare Problem Restated, pp. 207–9.

51 Chapter X, infra.

52 The Shakespeare Problem Restated, p. 96.

53 See chapter X, The Traditional Shakespeare.

54 The Shakespeare Problem Restated, pp. 94–96.

55 Shakespeare, pp. 38–40.

56 Raleigh, Shakespeare, pp. 77, 78.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:03