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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Re: Shakespeare's Valentine? A Query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2216  Thursday, 7 November 2002

From:           Wiliam Lloyd <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Nov 2002 10:21:10 EST
Subject: 13.2214 Re: Shakespeare's Valentine? A Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2214 Re: Shakespeare's Valentine? A Query

I may not have made myself clear. The query is not on Shakespeare as a
writer of occasional verse in general. The possibility that WS wrote
epitaphs or posies for Elias James, John a Combe, Alexander Aspinall and
others is well covered in the literature. What I want to know is does
anyone have any information about THIS pair of brief poems. Are they
invented or faked? Does the Middlehill MS. even exist? Or have they just
been overlooked because they were published only in an appendix to an
obscure book?  If they are fakes, they seem to me subtly and skillfully
done.

I think the [ahem] "parallels" I pointed out with Shakespeare's work at
least approach the state of acceptable collocation:

      your beautyes charme/ Will keep... in awe     Valentine ll. 5-6
                  |               |                   |
              looks       charm        bewitch

          bewitched by the charm of looks       Sonnet 95 l.14

and

      Wooll deads the sternest blade    Valentine l.7
                  |                 |          |
            lose edge      hardest knife

      The hardest knife ill-used doth lose his edge.  R&J Act II
Prologue l.6

Not just any blade/knife, but a superlative one-- the sternest/hardest
one.

With regard to "deads the... blade.../ weak edge turn", a 2 minute
survey of Elizabethan literature [the Marlowe concordance vs. the
Shakespeare concordance] shows that when Marlowe speaks of weapon edges
they are [as we might expect] "sharp" or "slicing". But Shakespeare
refers repeatedly to ineffective edges:

      News I think hath turned your weapon's edge.      2HenVI 1.1.176
      ...doth repate and blunt his natural edge.             MM 1.4.60
      honor, which shall bate his scythe's keen edge    LLL 1.1.6

Of course these comparisons don't prove Shakespearean authorship; but
they do show that the minds of Shakespeare and the "Valentinist"
sometimes ran along similar channels.

If the Middlehill MS. does exist and the Valentine and the Marriage
Posie are really there subscribed "W.S.", I think we should look more
closely at the possibility that we have here further examples of
Shakespeare's minor occasional verse. If they are fakes, I'm curious to
know who produced them, if only because they seem so well done.

The section "Early Illustrations of Shakespeare and the English Drama"
[as the separate title page has it] are apparently the work of J. O.
Halliwell-Phillips. On pp. 86-92 he quotes a poem purporting to be from
the Middlehill MS., a satire on Barton Holiday's failed play before the
King at Woodstock. Bentley [JCS IV.595] calls this "one of the most
frequently copied in the commonplace books of the time". Halliwell then
gives three more poems from the Middlehill MS.-- a variant of Basse's
Elegy on Shakespeare [also common], and then our two short poems. If I
was a better scholar, I'd find out myself about the Middlehill MS., but
as it is I beg help from any quarter.

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