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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Re: Authorship with an Editor's Note
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0455.  Wednesday, 25 May 1994.
 
(1)     From:   William Boyle <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 May 1994 11:58:26 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   "I am that I am"
 
(2)     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 May 94 14:09:52 EDT
        Subj:   Polonius/Burleigh
 
(3)     From:   William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 May 94 18:08 CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0453  Re: Polonius/Burleigh/Authorship
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Boyle <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 May 1994 11:58:26 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        "I am that I am"
 
The "I am that I am" quote from Oxford to Burleigh (mentioned by John Mucci in
his latest post) is quite interesting when considering any correspondance
between Oxford's writing and Shakespeare, and I offer it here in full.  It
appears at the end of a brief letter to Burleigh concerning Oxford's debts to
the Queen (Oct. 30, 1584), and is written in Oxford's own hand (unlike the
letter itself) in a postscript, seemingly a hasty addition to the letter,
written in anger, with the subject most likely being Burleigh's continuous
spying operations:
 
     "My Lord, this other day your man Stainner told me that you sent
     for Amis my man, and if he were absent that Lyly should come unto
     you.  I sent Amis, for he was in the way.  And I think very
     strange that your Lordship should enter into that course towards
     me whereby I must learn that I knew not before, both of your
     opinion and good will towards me.  But I pray, my Lord, leave that
     course, for I mean not to be your ward nor your child. I serve her
     majesty, and I am that I am, and by alliance near to your
     lordship, but free, and scorn to be offered that injury, to think
     I am so weak of government as to be ruled by servants, or not able
     to govern myself.  If your Lordship take and follow this course,
     you deceive yourself, and make me take another course than yet I
     have not thought of.  Wherefore these shall be to desire your
     Lordship, if that I may make account of your friendship, that you
     will leave that course as hurtful to us both."
 
This entire postscript reads almost like a first draft of Sonnet 121, a sonnet
that Robert Giroux spends a few pages on in his *Book known as Q*, commenting
on its most personal nature of all the sonnets, and speculating that it was
probably written in a "white heat".  Giroux also remarks that, with the "I am
that I am" in line 9 of this sonnet, the author "explodes in a magnificent
assertion, unique in his writing."  This line ("I am that I am"), if I
understand correctly, is known to appear only three times during the
Elizabethan period: 1) The Geneva Bible (Exodus III,14), 2) Shakespeare's
Sonnet 121, and 3) a postscript written by The Earl of Oxford.
 
Two other interesting points about this postscript: 1) "Lyly" is John Lyly,
Oxford's secretary for most of the 1580's, and 2) the threat "make me take
another course than yet I have not thought of" echoes these lines from *King
Lear* (II,4. 280-282): "I will do such things - what they are yet I know not:
but they shall be the terrors of the earth."
 
All in all, it seems to me at least, a very intriguing set of parallels.
William Fowler, in his *Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters*, speculates
that when Oxford *did* think of another course, it was probably satire on the
stage.  The play's the thing, so to speak.
 
William Boyle
May 24, 1994
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 May 94 14:09:52 EDT
Subject:        Polonius/Burleigh
 
Perhaps looking at topical allegory in another playwright might shed some
light on questions of "identification" of Polonius and Burleigh.  For about a
century, beginning in the 1840's, a very high percentage of Lyly scholarship
was devoted to attempts to unravel the presumed political allegory of Lyly's
plays.  Some roles were identified with several different courtiers, ladies
in waiting, etc., depending on the whim of the individual critic (both
Burleigh and Oxford show up with some frequency).  Then the search more or
less just stopped: moral lessons, thematic integrity, classical allusion,
etc. became the stuff of Lyly scholarship, and the hunt for topical allegory
suddenly became declasse.  But the fact is that Cynthia in _Endymion_ almost
surely does bear some relationship to the Queen, just as Gloriana and
Belphoebe do in Spenser.  Can we therefore surmise that Cynthia IS Elizabeth?
No.  But there are surely parallels.
 
In one of his prologues, Lyly begs his courtly audience not to "apply
pastimes" (i.e. seek hidden meanings).  Most critics, including me, believe
that this was in fact an invitation to do exactly the opposite: i.e. that the
admonition was accompanied by a metaphoric nudge-nudge-wink-wink.
 
I find an analogy to contemporary portraiture useful.  Look at the background
of any of the major portraits of Elizabeth and you'll see all manner of
events depicted simultaneously.  I'd argue that this simultaneous
presentation, reflected also in late medieval scenography, appears in Lyly as
well: that Cynthia simultaneously is and is not Elizabeth.  More precisely,
Cynthia is simultaneously Elizabeth, the moon, and the goddess of the moon.
So, I'd argue, can Polonius both be and not be Burleigh.  (Of course, this
argument can apply to any age, but I think is especially applicable to the
Elizabethan period.)
 
One other thought, in a slightly different direction: it strikes me that
different people would respond differently to being the butt of such satire.
Socrates doesn't seem to have been much put out by Aristophanes' caricature
of him; Cleon was livid and tried to change the laws so he could prosecute.
Do we have any indication that any particular courtier (as opposed to the
Queen herself) was particularly good-natured or ill-natured about such
things?
 
Rick Jones

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 May 94 18:08 CDT
Subject: 5.0453  Re: Polonius/Burleigh/Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0453  Re: Polonius/Burleigh/Authorship
 
I think it would be a very good idea if the Oxfordians started their own list.
Those Stratfordians who are interested in this sort of stuff could join it and
those of us who aren't wouldn't have to be troubled with what is, largely, a
pointless discussion.  I personally subscribe to Richard Armour's view  that
the plays of Shakespeare were not written by him but by a playwright of the
same name.
 
William Proctor Williams
Northern Illinois University
TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET
 
[Editor's Note: I too confess to a weariness at the continuation of this
discussion.  There are by my count five Oxfordians who are members of
SHAKSPER.  However, there are also 635 more of us who are not.  Not
wishing to be accussed of stiffling free speech again, I am announcing
that ALL future posting advancing the case of anyone (Oxford, Bacon,
Queen Elizabeth, or William Shakespeare of Stratford) as the author of
the plays and poetry we discuss as the works of William Shakespeare will
be listed under the subject of Authorship with no further designations so
that anyone not wanting to be bothered with reading them can delete these
digests knowing full well what they are about.  --HMC]
 

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