Intermediacies: more process journal

This entry is journal/reflection on several readings, some in progress, as well as on proposed readings. I am making headway in my study of the Essex Rebellion and its relation to Richard II, or visa versa, but not proceeding in a linear fashion, since I am filling in so much background. Making note-taking texts in Word for those texts which I can allows me to annotate, add links and easily record my own analysis.

SO, What have I learned? “Popularity” did not mean quite what it means now, especially in the politics of de Verean England. Essex became an early modern celebrity–and the paparazzi were government spies. Commonplace books, (and I know this is a vast simplification and imperfect parallel) were the Facebook of the time, albeit for some a little more economical and with a firmer theoretical basis and educational purpose. People wrote stuff down in the theater. Who is writing about popularity in plays matters if we define it as a political concept. If the playwright is a commoner, it is a bit different than if the writer is an earl. A clandestine earl writing for the theater and handling the issue of popularity and its discontents is even more complicated.

More Reading

Plans have changed a little because I need to update my primary source skills…with a little help from my friends. Psi pointed out two (one additional) primary sources I will be read, so I need to learn how to evaluate and get the best information about and from these documents, as well as how to document them in my writing. I am taking the short course introduction to historical graduate student-level research.

At the top of the primary source list on RII and Essex:

1. The play itself (duh). Waiting for an Arden to arrive. Using my 1981 rpt Pelican Complete.  I needed to reread this one, as I had had to read it quickly as the representative history in a Shakespeare survey in the 80s. I had also seen Jacob’s version for the BBC.

I recently made the error of using the online concordance and MIT online text, which a friend pointed out are 19th c. editions with errors. I had wanted to quote a speech from Julius Caesar, the famous one about the North Star, but the text I consulted assigned it incorrectly to Cassius (a transcription error that was understandable after viewing a friend’s photo of the FF version. “Caef” (Caes.) with the digraph vs “Caffi” (Cassi) are the character abbreviations in the FF.) It seemed incorrect, since I had just seen the play at ASC with Oxfordian friends, so I pasted it into a fb discussion that way…never again if I can help it. I should trust my own memory, but I have not really written about the plays much, especially when I have just seen one. And my knowledge of the nature of the editions is improving. Lesson learned. Thank goodness I have mentors who will set me straight, and it was just on a Facebook closed group page.

2. The first and second parts of John Hayward’s “The Life and Raigne of King Henrie IIII” (1599) which I am getting from the VT library, and the trial transcripts for Hayward’s interrogation. I have to find out how to access these.

More article-reading:

In the meantime, I am also going to read and comment another article about one of the aspects of the Essex problem that I found very interesting: the idea of ‘media’ popularity or celebrity (theretofore the sole province of the Queen) in political figures. I have been urged to read and use some Stratfordian scholarship to forward Oxfordian arguments, and the concept of popularity seems a good lead in that can be reinterpreted to understand de Vere’s perspective.  I see that it can also help challenge one’s analytical skills. Doty’s work, more than Hammer’s, deals more particularly with William of Stratford in the political sphere, and may, therefore,  allow me to attempt to fight my aggravation and try to make reasoned judgements in spite of it.  Plus it is one of the more recent treatments of the role of Richard II in the Essex debacle.

Essex’s rise and failed rising involved lots of texts–books and pamphlets, the “libels,” and very importantly, the plays like RII and Henry IV Part 1–all of which served as public rhetoric. A lot of this was going on, since printing had become so much more widespread. I think I could agree with Hammer that this relates in way to the rest of what QE allegedly said to Lambarde after the ‘know ye not’ exclamation, “This tragedie was played 40tie times in open streets and houses.” By this Elizabeth seems to have meant, Hammer suggests, that Essex had usurped her monopoly on the public’s love (popularity) and used the early modern media to promote himself (not his proper place) and to promote his own [albeit tragic] political narrative. It seems that through this publicity, Essex and friends had already treasonably earned the crown’s disdain, which led to the thwarting of their ambitions long before the premature demise of what Essex believed a noble plan to confront Elizabeth and try to charm her once more. De Vere also disapproved of Essex’s methods, it seems, and RII can be seen as a combination call for noble action, but also a cautionary tale, which Essex did not heed. [I keep noticing de Vere’s cautions and frequent references about the evils ENVY — also in Latin “in V”? (reminded by friend that it is also N-ed V-ere).  So popularizing yourself was ‘just not done.’ All this puts forth another strong example to explain why de Vere’s anonymity was essential to his survival.

So I will be taking a look at:

Doty. Jeffrey S.“Shakespeare’s Richard II, “Popularity,” and the Early Modern Public Sphere.” Shakespeare Quarterly 61.2 (2010): 183-205. Project MUSE. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <>.

I will also eventually look at how my topic is handled in a brand new book from Cambridge UP, Peltonen, Markku. Rhetoric, Politics, and Popularity in Pre-Revolutionary England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print. The abstract indicates that it deals with rhetorical education at the schoolboy level (mainly w.r.t. pre-revolutionary parliamentarians, but might be useful or perturbing if relevant to Stratford in any way). I will let you know!). It’s so recent, maybe I can do a review… I have this book from the library.


I am still reading Doty on Richard II and the concept of popularity, which is interesting, but slow going for Oxfordian reasons; one has to try not to be distracted by all of the conjectural claims about Shakspere’s authorial practice. This is one of the first specifically Stratfordian looks at a play text and its backgrounds which I come to with somewhat informed opinions.  But it features a quotation from a commonplace book, so I have learned a little about that practice, which I find fascinating. To my undergraduate friends, the Wikipedia page on commonplace books is not a bad start. For my own use, Stritmatter’s blog post on his own use of the Elizabethan term “topoi,” with regard to his diss. was actually a very helpful explanation of the theory behind commonplacing.

In the meantime, I digressed to read a more friendly look at Richard II in Farina’s book, De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon. Ch. 18 on Richard II looks at the events surrounding its 1595 composition and describes the several parallels that link the play to de Vere, including those in an early version, Thomas of Woodstock, (see Egan)  and the related Richard III.  I learned that, according to Nelson, there was some indication that Elizabeth de Vere was allegedly involved in extramarital intrigue with the Earl of Essex, which may have fueled her father’s disapproval (Farina 110). This came from Nelson’s notoriously disparaging bio of Oxford, Monstrous Adversary, and Ward, so I’m getting Nelson to take a look. Ward seems pretty hard to obtain. I also found I need to have Daphne Pearson’s book, Edward De Vere (1550-1604): The Crisis and Consequences of Wardship.

I also ran into the saga of Egan’s excellent work to add Woodstock to the de Vere column, not Egan’s book, but an article summarizing his case, and Stritmatter’s discussion of its importance. (see Works Cited).

Back to Farina, I looked up the bible verses related to Richard II’s dying words in the play,

Mount, mount, my soul! thy seat is up on high;
Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward, here to die.

and found, as far as I can tell, (anything with regard to versions of the Bible is definitely where I am out of my depth) that this is based on Isaiah 40:31 as it ended up reading with the word “mount” in The King James Bible. It is different in the 1599 Geneva and the Douay Rheims. I also learned from Farina, that this is similar to some of de Vere’s words in the dedication to Cardanus Comforte (110).

So a productive Friday, and now I must cease and desist for a few days to do other work. Next I will write up my notes on Richard II and my analysis of Doty, then on/back to primary sources. I am also going to have to look at the sources of the play, now. It’s either in far or out deep.

Works Cited

Egan, Michael. “Did Samuel Rowley Write Thomas of Woodstock?”
 The Oxfordian. 10   (2007). Shakespeare-Oxford Society. Web. 23 Mar. 2013.

Farina, William. De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. 2005. Kindle Edition. 23 Mar. 2013.

Hammer, Paul, E. J.,  ”Shakespeare’s Richard II, the Play of 7 February 1601, and the Essex Rising.” Shakespeare Quarterly 59.1 (2008) 1-35. Folger Shakespeare Library viaProject Muse. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

Stritmatter, Roger. “Have You Lost Your OED?” 3 Feb. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2013.

—. “Richard II, Part I: A Wild Card in the Shakespearean Question.” n.d.  Web. 23 Mar. 2013. 


© Michelle Maycock 2014




What’s next…

What is next: sharing my to do list.

1. Go over Hammer’s careful footnotes and identify the primary sources he is using. I am new to these and need to know what is what, so what will follow will be a rough annotated bibliography. I also have to see if I can find out about Bates’ argument that the Lambarde conversation may be a 17th C. fabrication. Hammer had his unpublished paper on this back when he wrote this, and I am wondering if it has ever been published. Anyone know?

2. Plan to eventually continue Alexandra Gajda’s Monograph, The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Political Culture. Oxford University Press, 2012. I have already realized that this could be helpful in tracing the various classical and religious influences on Essex and co. I am hoping to find parallels or cruxes with de Vere. How ambitious of me! Wish me not a little luck on that one! I may be in over my head, but I am a strong swimmer. I do realize these are like the Great Barrier reef:  ^ ^ ^ everywhere.

In conjunction with this, I will look at Anthony Bacon’s The State of Christendom, and reading Gajda’s article explaining that treatise.

One observation based on Gajda’s summary of Essex’s life–he had charmed his way back into the Queen’s life several times, including over his secret marriage to Sidney’s widow, Frances Walsiingham, so my interpretation would be that he thought he could do this again. But affairs of State and of the heart, as ever, were vastly different things in ER’s mind, and walking into her chambers and asking her to reconsider the council of Cecil and his other enemies at court while he was holding them prisoner was the worst possible idea. No wonder everyone seemed a little dubious. But what could they do? He was the ranking earl…if diminished significantly to a private status…They had cast their lots. Funny thing how it all worked out favoring James IV / I in the end. Still wondering about the June 24, 1604 rearrest question…

3. I have realized that I should become more than passingly familiar with Stephen May’s edition of de Vere’s and Essex’s Poetry. And it is high time to trace more Oxfordian historiography in my studies.

4. Our library has Hayward’s book, The first and second parts of John Hayward’s “The Life and Raigne of King Henrie IIII” (1599), which Roger suggests that I look at closely (in addition to the trial transcripts for Hayward’s interrogation).  So these are at the top of my list of primary documents that I can access. In the meantime, I found another relevant article, which deals with the issue of popularity and Essex, which came up as I was reading Hammer. Hammer asserts that QE objected to Essex and friends making the earl into a popular figure, a celebrity through various means, which was heretofore her dominant role–she felt this was a great part of Essex’s error and treasonous behavior leading up to the rebellion, and which I see also contributed to the thwarting of his plans. I have to look at the whole series of events leading up to this point, and Hammer’s books about the political machinations that led to Essex’s rise and fall, and others will be of great help with this.

© Michelle Maycock 2014

On the Undoing of Another “Playboy of the Western World”

Note that I have written about what follows in my previous post, which if you did not catch, expresses somewhat my qualms about venturing into this territory, and what a journey! Travel plans usually take unexpected turns, and this is no exception–my muse is threatening to combust. I urge you to let me know if I have gone astray…

I have been reading Paul Hammer, a historian who has presented at the Folger, but tells the Stratfordians a different tale of Essex, one that differs with the standard story I have heard from many directions. Not exactly the story James Shapiro told when he recently took up this topic to introduce the Folger’s Irish exhibition. Hammer is interested in rehabilitating Robert de Vereux’s story in the same way that most Oxfordians are trying to improve de Vere’s. On the other hand, he also serves the orthodox view that the performance of Richard II right before the rising is essential to a politicized view of Shakespeare, a point which is so obvious that it need not even be repeated for de Vere, but which is key to casting Will as a politically important operative (1). He explains how Essex’s story relates to Shakespeare’s Richard II, but offers a new look at the documents, and Essex is his main concern.  He has two relatively new book length studies of Essex which I have started in on, but one article he spun off from those studies seemed worth an earlier look. “Shakespeare’s Richard II, the Play of 7 February 1601, and the Essex Rising” (2008) from Shakespeare Quarterly, is one of Hammer’s texts that particularly explains Hammer’s theory of the Essex incident and the importance of the play [he insists it is Richard II (2, 18-23)] in that course of events. As he puts it, “This revised account challenges traditional arguments about the connection between the play of 7 February and the Rising” (abstract). I take this for our text today.

I decided to study Hammer because of his introductory description in his book, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics, of Essex’s reputation as created by critics and historians over the years as “the playboy of the Western world,” which reminds one of the dismissive view many have of Oxford. Because words interest me, I looked up “playboy” in the OED, and it is interesting to note that Ben Jonson seems to have been one of the first to use the compound word “play-boy” in print, referring to the boy actors; but as is ‘ever’ the case, I have a feeling the term was shoptalk a bit before that. Would that someone had compiled a Tudor Urban Dictionary beyond that within the works of the great author.The OED says it not used in the negative sense that Synge used it/meant it till much later. But the concept clearly captures the modern stigma attached to both Essex and Oxford.

Hammer analyzes Essex’s actions from a long view of his role as soldier and statesman in the light of the bitter political factionalization of the late 90s. Succession as the main political issue was roosting, and Essex was the most visible of roosters. But his rivals were vicious and vociferous, especially Raleigh, Cobham, Cecil and Coke (7). It seems the pent up jealousies that followed any former favorite of the Queen caught up with Essex, so that whatever he did, intended, or stood for was soundly rejected, and this prejudice has followed him to this day (7). Hammer looks at the historical records, influential circulating texts and the trial records to support his revised account Essex’s and his followers’–of course, including Southampton’s–plans and panicked actions, which have been mischaracterized as an attempted regicidal coup d’etat, when the real targets were Essex’s enemies on the Privy Council. Essex was apparently justifiably convinced that his enemies on the Privy Council were dubious or opposed to his preference of James Stuart as the Queen’s successor (6). Essex’s original plan to commandeer an audience and make a “humble” appeal to the Queen was stymied by leaks through embedded spies, and action was forced a week earlier and so, badly adapted. The fine line Essex was trying to walk to stay above treasonable action seems the razor that brought him down. Essex and company felt they had a noble cause, which is in part, illustrated by their interest in Richard II. Hammer looks at the performance of Richard II that some of Essex’s followers commissioned as being, in their view, a courage-steeling, combined dramatization of historical precedent, of aristocrats doing the right thing, and cautionary tale about how their actions could be misinterpreted and go terribly wrong (27-30). But the play was supposed to happen a week before the planned effort to appeal to the Queen, so while it was put on by Essex friends, Hammer shows that it was advance propaganda and custom ideological exigence-building for his co-conspirators, rather than a catalyst to same-day rebellion (18). Essex friends’ reasons for hiring and viewing the play seem parallel to Oxford’s lifelong view of the vicissitudes of aristocratic responsibility and action, and might hint at his influence. Apparently, even the close followers were a bit worried about Essex and his well-meaning, but ultimately ill-conceived plot that, when it failed, was made to look like a Catholic-aligned conspiracy by some counts and a treasonous usurpation of right and power at best.

Hammer also argues for an interesting, and seemingly reasonable re-interpretation of Elizabeth’s declaration of “Know ye not,” that Elizabeth’s comment to Lambarde was not  precisely about the particular performance in February 1601—nor, indeed, was her follow up remark about drama a reference to any particular play—but her points were an expression her own understanding [characteristically expressed as metaphor] of how her former favorite had come to such a [classically] tragic end” (25). According to Hammer, Elizabeth was referring to the Cecilian version of Essex’s treason–upon which he was convicted, the ‘official’ narrative of his enemies. Posterity only knows whether the Queen ever realized what Essex had really wanted to happen. Hammer’s reading of the account of the Lambarde conversation seems to be based on solid research and interpretation and is the most convincing I have seen about this issue, which I had read about prior to this article, because it seems quite crucial. I intend to look into this more, but this one seems the best contextualization yet. Hammer also mentions the possible censorship of the eventually printed versions of the play and contends that they further politicize the play. This issue of the play’s life as a political document sends me to other sources, and may be an issue for another time. However, this may shed light on the government’s efforts to spin the Essex story for posterity.

So, what have we here? A reminder that traditional narrative is influenced by the winning faction and current factions for their own ends, and that another powerful Elizabethan trying to avoid the mistakes of history did not come out unscathed by those who would judge his actions without the benefit of complete, un-faction-biased evidence. My greatest wish is for key Elizabethan individuals to be seen more in the context of a multilevel web of complex court/public interactions. We pick the trees out of the forest without looking at the ecosystem too often because it is complicated and long ago and far away.  I urge my Oxfordian friends to consider this article, which I plan to reassess, but I think it both supports Oxford’s hand in the Essex matter, but overlooks that there were also other views of what would be best for succession (factions beside and within factions, imagine that!) and, and confirms de Vere’s seasoned influence was considered, if not completely heeded. Another aspect is that it points to good reasons for a politically vocal earl to remain anonymous in the public eye. As Hammer explains, Elizabeth’s disapproval of Essex stemmed from his disrespectful and ungrateful usurption of her right to dominance of the public eye and of her peers and subjects. Hammer explains that this is what

Elizabeth means when she said that earl of Essex’s ‘”tragedie was played 40tie times in open streets and houses.” His very public ambition was a huge contributor to his downfall, and he had failed also to heed his colleague, de Vere’s example of sprezzatura.

Works Cited

Hammer, Paul, E. J. The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-1597. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. Print.

Hammer, Paul, E. J.,  “Shakespeare’s Richard II, the Play of 7 February 1601, and the Essex Rising.” Shakespeare Quarterly 59.1 (2008) 1-35. Folger Shakespeare Library via Project Muse. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

© Michelle Maycock 2014



if not by wormhole…

Robert Devereux, the Second Earl of Essex

Robert Devereux, the Second Earl of Essex

While I agree that the responsibility for authorship of the play performed just before the Essex uprising most likely belongs to DeVere, a couple of things still bother me about the other narrative: one about the idea that Will Shakspere was involved or even a pawn in the rebellion propaganda. It came to me, as I scanned the rambling, evidence-free musings of one who claims to have “solved Shakespeare,” thanks to a friend’s reference. This person stated that William Shakespeare “wept” over the death of his patron, Lord Essex (a prelude to claiming Hamlet is primarily about this other earl, among other things). Ah, poor Will. If one sympathized with the rebels, the aftermath was a sad time. But as I tell my students, even poor sources can get you thinking. When you step in something, you have to examine your boots more closely than you might have otherwise.  Of course, there is no corroborative proof that Essex or Southampton were Shakspere’s patrons, but aside from that annoying problem, why do serious scholars not see how naïve they seem with regard to the age’s political realities when they do not consider what would have really happened to Shakspere if he had been, as they claim, the minion and mouthpiece of these men who belonged to a clearly militant political faction?

It makes more sense if the messages of the plays were those of the earls’ equal who had some sort of apparent immunity (for which he had and would forever pay an unspeakable price). Afterall, Oxford was, at this point, to some extent, old news, an inconveniently persistent and cogent riddler, and a known quality and quantity, and an all too willing and convenient provider of all-consuming and engaging distractions for the people to get them through what were then increasingly distressing and trying times. Some forget that if some of the aristocracy is unhappy, the remainder of society are most likely in much greater pain. It was clear that the Queen was going to die soon, and things were not going well at home or abroad, to say the least.

As for finding out what happened with Essex and friends, I have already found that some minor distortion and omission in dealing with related documentary evidence over the years has not helped matters and has led to misinterpretation by scholars of many stances. But for the actors and others associated with the business of the playhouses to be allowed to carry on and even stage another play at court soon afterwards without much interference from the government suggests that their involvement was not a priority concern. So the other thing that bothers me about the several versions of the Essex rebellion-plus-play-as- catalyst narrative is whether ‘the play [was] the thing’ or not. Was it, and is it really so important? Or is it important for or indicative of reasons we are not completely seeing? Was it overshadowed by graver concerns?

With the early confusion of a skeptic on a learning curve, I plunge on. I have found that this scholarship must be circuitous. I have amassed some reasonable and finite readings, but know that these will expand. I am keeping a log of the primary documents involved, hoping that I may actually get to see some of them for myself or at least figure out what they say from comparative viewing. I am glad for the now interdisciplinary nature of these studies, because alternate paths are possible. One of my first year writing students is researching wormhole theory, and when I told the class a little about the problems associated with researching Shakespeare’s true identity, he humored me a little and volunteered to let me know if he finds out how I might venture back into time. He wanted to go for me, but I told him he might think it over a bit more, and that he would have to join me and undergo some cultural and sensory training, for this kind of venture is not for the impatient or the squeamish. And so I wade in…

 Photo on 2-8-13 at 7.21 PMCODA: I fear I am already finding things that my respected Oxfordian friends and colleagues will not want to hear, but I find that the truth, as our constant seeker of it knew so well, that is sometimes a bit painful. What may have happened may not be what we expected. Funny, just when we think we have found a gaping hole where there used to be a nice bit of support for DeVere, we find an even better explanation that seems to be an even stronger imprint of his inky hand on the page. I do not seek to undermine my friends, but to put better stones beneath our case.

© Michelle Maycock 2014

A Preliminary Question:

On January 25, 2013, I joined a couple of new Oxfordian friends to hear James Shapiro talk about the Essex rebellion at the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC. It was a snowy night, but I was warmed by good company and lots of hot tea from the nearby Starbucks. It was a little daunting, venturing into what can only be under-described as not Oxfordian-friendly turf, and a misattributed grand monument to DeVere’s achievement, but hearing and seeing one of our chief adversaries in action was an interesting prospect, to say the least. It was my first visit to the Folger, which I highly recommend, and my colleague was kind enough to take a souvenir photo of me in front of the Ashbourne which we got into see because Bill knew some of the Folger people. This may be about as close as an American can get to DeVere’s presence aside from getting to read his Bible, which I was happy to even be near. You will hear more about this experience later.

What this experience did was get me thinking about what the documents are that pertain to the Essex rebellion and how they have been interpreted with respect to persons of interest to us Oxfordians. I am teaching my students or I should say working with my students on how to formulate research questions today. My prewriting has consisted of the summaries I have offered on FB of what I heard from Shapiro at the Folger, months of random but fairly in-depth (at times) reading on the subject both scholarly and on favorite social media sites where these things are discussed in great depth and often with great humor as well, which I know our Great Author would sometimes appreciate the spirit of.  My thinking on this is also informed by a thorough reading of reactions to the treatment of the subject in Anonymous the film, the documentary, Last Will and Testament, as well as many scholarly articles as well as many points of view expressed on diverse blogs. But I was feeling it is time to develop a focus and do a more organized survey. One has to remember that this can only be done ‘on the side’ for me, since my current job description does not allow me a lot of time for research of this kind.

I am going to have my students propose “working” research questions today, and here is the first question I am asking in this line of inquiry: What do we really think is true about the Essex Rebellion and what records, documents or accounts is our knowledge or interpretations of its history based on?

Acting on advice of fellow Oxfordians, I am first returning to early historical accounts and bios of Essex and Southampton before the late 20th century efforts to erase and revise.

© Michelle Maycock 2014