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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Re: Polonius/Burleigh/Authorship; Thy Lovely Lines
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0453.  Tuesday, 24 May 1994.
 
(1)     From:   William Boyle <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 May 1994 12:25:42 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Polonius/Burleigh/authorship
 
(2)     From:   William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Monday, 23 May 1994 22:54:46 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Polonius
 
(3)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 May 94 22:47:37 CDT
        Subj:   More authorship
 
(4)     From:   William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Monday, 23 May 1994 23:01:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Thy Lovely Lines
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Boyle <
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Date:           Monday, 23 May 1994 12:25:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Polonius/Burleigh/authorship
 
I have been reading with interest the postings over the last 2 weeks about
Polonius identified as Burleigh, particularly whether this identification has
any bearing on the authorship issue.  I agree with all that Pat Buckridge says
in his latest post, responding to Thomas Ellis.  On the matter of whether
Oxford "would have" satirized his father-in-law, I thought this passage from
Elizabeth Jenkins' *Elizabeth the Great* (1958, Coward-McCann, N.Y.) describing
the 1575-76 flap over Oxford's believing Ann Cecil had cuckolded him would be
of interest.  She writes (page 193):
 
     "he [Oxford] was one of those who, like Hamlet, are so
      impressed with the importance of their own sufferings,
      they are completely indifferent to the pain they
      themselves give to other people."
 
She goes on to quote a letter from Oxford to his father-in- law Burleigh (cited
from Ward, no page given):
 
     [As to the reason for casting off Ann Cecil] "I will not
     blazon or publish it until it please me.  And last of
     all, I mean not to weary my life any more with such
     troubles and molestations as I have endured, nor will I,
     to please your Lordship only, discontent myself...Always
     I have, and I will still, prefer mine own content before
     others."
 
This doesn't sound as if Oxford would have had any trouble at all in satirizing
his father-in-law in whatever he may have written, or probably anyone else for
that matter.
 
Also, in all the discussion I have seen in the past two weeks, no one has come
out and asked directly "If Polonius is Burleigh, what other characters in
*Hamlet* are satires of or modeled on court personalities?"  Considering all
the parallels between Oxford and Hamlet (son-in-law/prospective son-in-law to
monarch's chief counselor, harsh treatment of counselor's daughter for reasons
not entirely clear, writers, theatre lovers/patrons, overall
attitude/temperament, captured by pirates in English Channel, etc.), isn't it
at least reasonable to consider that there is something going on here?  Do such
parallels *prove* anything about the authorship issue?  No.  But how can they
be ignored?  And what *do* they mean?
 
William Boyle
23 May 1994
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Monday, 23 May 1994 22:54:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Polonius
 
Replying to Ann Cox, et al., I would like to make several points. First, I'm
not at all convinced that Polonius was meant to be a satirical portrait of
Burgley. And, I suggest, that no one in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth
century was convinced either. If Burgley or his son had recognized a satirical
portrait, the putative author, Shakespeare, would have been punished (I
suppose) no matter who actually wrote the lines.
 
Second, as an avid reader of detective novels, I KNOW that motive, means, and
opportunity do NOT determine the villain, or in Oxford's case, the author.
Let's, for the sake of investigation, say that Oxford had motive (didn't like
Burgley), means (pen and ink), and opportunity (a leisure day or two). Didn't
many other people in London have the same motive, means, and opportunity? The
problem for anyone suggesting that William Shakespeare did not write the works
of William Shakespeare is that all the solid evidence points to him:
titlepages, testimonials of playwrights and actors. If Ben Jonson had known
that Shakespeare was playing the part of Woody Allen (the front), Jonson would
not have kept his mouth shut -- especially after Oxford's death in 1604. By
1604, the old order had changed. James was on the throne. Why didn't Oxford's
enemies ridicule him as a common playwright -- if he were?
 
No, the only good evidence that we have points to the fact that Shakespeare
wrote the plays attributed to him -- or most of them, at least. As far as I can
see, there is no shred of contemporary 16th or 17th century evidence linking
Oxford to the writing of popular plays.
 
And, finally, I'd like to quote from a postcard that Charlton Ogburn sent me in
1989: "You confirm my experience that orthodox Shakespearean professors, to the
extent that they are not ignorant, are dishonest when addressing the question
of Shakespeare's identity." That's just to set the record straight. As Hamlet
once said of Polonius: "These tedious old fooles" (TLN 1262).
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 23 May 94 22:47:37 CDT
Subject:        More authorship
 
While I have neither the time nor the energy right now to continue the
Polonius/Burleigh argument much further in this forum, I feel compelled to make
a few comments on John Mucci's and Patrick Buckridge's responses.
 
1. Both Mucci and Buckridge state that neither they nor other Oxfordians claim
that the Polonius/Burleigh connection *proves* the Oxfordian case.  Fair
enough.  But they do certainly imply that it is *evidence* that William
Shakespeare of Stratford did not write *Hamlet*, and it was to that claim that
I was responding; I was arguing that the connection, even if one accepts it, is
no evidence against Shakespeare's authorship.
 
2. I agree with the idea that we should not let emotions get too involved here,
and that this is an intellectual debate which should not be taken as a
religious crusade by either side.
 
3. Mr. Mucci still finds the similarity between Burleigh's *Preceptes* and
Polonius' advice to Laertes compelling, and feels that orthodox scholars have
glossed over the similarity.  He particularly finds Schoenbaum's passing
discussion of the parallel "lame and unconvincing".  Well, excuse me, but I
don't see any reason to believe that Shakespeare needed access to Burleigh's
advice, since such fatherly advice to a son departing on a journey was a
commonplace in the literature of the time.  If you'll look in the Arden
*Hamlet*, you'll find a lengthy discussion of this issue, with quotations from
numerous other lists in literature of fatherly advice to sons, many of which
are at least as similar to Polonius' advice as Burleigh's is, if not more so.
The idea that Shakespeare had to have had access to Burleigh's *Preceptes* is
based on the assumption that these *Preceptes* were somehow unique or unusual,
which they were not, not at all.  Orthodox scholars are perfectly well aware of
this.
 
4. Mr. Mucci states that "there are just as many reports of actors having their
ears and hands cut off and indeed being thrown in prison for much less than
satirizing Burghley."  While it's true that there are a few recorded instances
of playwrights being thrown in prison, I would challenge the statement that
this was done for "much less" than satirizing Burleigh.  The two best known
cases of this kind are *The Isle of Dogs* in 1597 and *Eastward Ho* in 1605,
for both of which Ben Jonson was imprisoned, the second time along with Chapman
and Marston.  *The Isle of Dogs* was so successfully suppressed that no copy
survives, but from contemporary references (such as those in the Parnassus
plays) it appears to have contained criticisms of the Queen and her policies;
the actual Isle of Dogs in London was, in Elizabethan times, a hangout for
outlaws and a repository for sewage washed downriver from the city.  Draw your
own conclusions; to me, this suggests something much more serious than a
caricature of a dead politician.  As for *Eastward Ho*, there Jonson et al got
in trouble for making fun of the King and his Scottish heritage, and even so
they got off fairly easy, with only a brief imprisonment, and the play was
published with many of the offending passages intact.  Both cases appear to
have involved criticism of the Crown, which was seditious libel and quite
illegal; the character of Polonius in *Hamlet*, even if it is a satire of
Burleigh, is nothing of the sort.  As I said before, there are many cases in
plays of the time of satires parallel to Polonious-as- Burleigh; it was only
when the Crown itself became a direct target that the authorities really
clamped down.
 
5. Mr. Mucci states that "when Oxford's writing abruptly stops being published,
that of Shakespeare appears."  To characterize this as a significant distortion
is charitable.  Eight poems of Oxford's were published in 1576 under his name
or initials, and are generally accepted as his.  Then one was published in 1589
under his name in Puttenham's *Art of Poesie*.  Then one was published in 1600
under the initials "E of O".  That's it, as far as publication.  I'd hardly
call anything about that pattern "abrupt".  There also exist several poems
which until 1872 existed only in manuscript, and which are generally attributed
to Oxford and taken as belonging to the same era as the ones published in 1576.
This includes the poems quoted by both Mucci and Buckridge (I'm not sure where
Mucci's 1588 date comes from), and also a couple that were published under
Sidney's name in the early 1590's.  The idea that Oxford's published work
ceased "abruptly" just when Shakespeare's started appearing seems to me to bear
little resemblance to the facts.
 
6. Ann M. Cox's comment would require much too long to respond to, but I take
strong exception to her claim, common to all anti- Stratfordians, that "nothing
really ties Shakespeare, the man, to Shakespeare the bard."  The amount and
type of evidence we have to link William Shakespeare of Stratford with the
William Shakespeare whose name appears on the plays and poems is completely
typical for the time; it's significantly better than what we have for many
other playwrights of the time, including Webster, Dekker, Kyd, Day, Fletcher,
etc. etc.  I really don't have time to get into this now, but this is probably
the one area that has been most distorted by anti- Stratfordians.
 
There's plenty more to be said, but it will have to wait.  If this posting
seems "visceral", mea culpa; I just want to get the facts straight.
 
Dave Kathman

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(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Monday, 23 May 1994 23:01:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Thy Lovely Lines
 
I want to thank Harry Hill for his lovely lines. It isn't every day that
someone sends you a poem, even in Cincinnati where you can't walk across the
street with meeting a poet.
 
With thanks (and a laugh -- or two), Bill Godshalk
 

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