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.
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.
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. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
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.
Egan, Michael. “Did Samuel Rowley Write Thomas of Woodstock?” The Oxfordian. 10 (2007). Shakespeare-Oxford.com. 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?” Shakespeares-bible.com 3 Feb. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2013.
—. “Richard II, Part I: A Wild Card in the Shakespearean Question.” n.d. Shakespeares-bible.com Web. 23 Mar. 2013.
© Michelle Maycock 2014