The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0927 Tuesday, 13 May 2003
From: Jim Carroll <
Date: Monday, 12 May 2003 10:14:33 EDT
Subject: 14.0854 Re: King John, Titus, Peele
Comment: Re: SHK 14.0854 Re: King John, Titus, Peele
>Claude Casper <
>However one views the question of collaboration, don't miss Jonathan
>Bates' review of our very own Brian Vickers' book, "Shakespeare,
>Co-Author," in this weeks TLS.
Bate wrote, in his essay in the Times Literary Supplement, April 18
"Brian Vickers's book Shakespeare, Co-Author , is a triumphant
application of scientific method to literary attribution studies. As
every scientist knows, the key to a successful experiment is the
replication of results."
I'm not sure if Bate is pulling our legs here or just doesn't understand
what an experiment is. He seems to believe that since several writers on
the subject have found likenesses between Peele's work and Act 1 of
Titus, that those reports are "experiments", and if enough of them agree
then the case is made. But the same argument could apply to the crackpot
authorship theories. Just because a certain number of people make a
claim does not make the claim true. A genuine experiment would be
something like this: if we had a time machine, we could go back to the
early 1590's and ask Peele to write a five act play on the theme of,
say, Scylla's metamorphosis. Then we could ask Shakespeare to do the
same thing, and compare the results. To replicate the experiment, other
researchers might go back in time and ask them to do the same thing and
see if the same differences appear, or ask them to do another play on a
different theme, say a play on King Edward VI, and see if the
differences hold there as well. But what Vickers has done in his book is
not an experiment, nor does he summarize other experiments. In looking
at the Peele/Titus issue, all that the writers on the subject can do is
list all the likenesses and unlikenesses between the work of the two
writers, but unless that list is VERY complete, and unless the comparer
is careful to exclude those items which both writers have in common with
themselves and with other writers of the time, the wrong answer will
result. What Vickers and the others he enlists in his cause have done is
simply look at a cat and decide that, because it has two eyes, fur, a
tail and walks on four legs, it must be dog. They do this because they
come to the issue already predisposed to see a dog, and hence only list
But here is an example of what Bate calls Vicker's "cool forensics of
the research he summarizes." On page 167 of his book, Vickers wants to
use the verbal repetition, noticed first by Wilson, that occurs in Act 1
of Titus as evidence that it is by Peele. He says:
"The lines of Bassianus vowing to
To justice, continence and nobility (1.1.14-15)
are echoed in idiom and structure shortly afterwards, in lines given to
My sword, my chariot, and my prisoners (1.1.248-9)
The most striking repetition, Wilson observed, involved a speech by
Bassianus earlier in the scene, whe he begins with a vocative referring
IF EVER Bassianus, Caesar's son
WERE GRACIOUS IN the EYES of ROYAL Rome,
Keep THEN this passage to the Capitol
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
AND, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice. (1.1.10-17)
At lines 428-31 'Tamora in a briefer speech reproduces the very
structure of Bassianus' nine lines and in part his words, even
concluding, as he does, with a line commencing, "And", and reiterating
the vocative with which the speech opens':
My worthy lord, IF EVER Tamora
WERE GRACIOUS IN those PRINCELY EYES of thine,
THEN hear me speak indifferently for all;
AND at my suit, sweet, pardon what is past."
But later, on page 182, Vickers wants to disagree with Wilson's
assignment of 2.3 to Peele, using again the presence of repetition. He
quotes these lines:
High Emperor, upon my feeble knee
I beg this boon, with tears not lightly shed,
That this fell fault of my accursed sons -
Accursed if the fault be proved in them - (2.3.288-91)
but this time argues that the repetition IS Shakespearean:
"That this fell FAULT of my ACCURSED sons -
ACCURSED if the FAULT be proved in them -
such emphatic effects are common in early Shakespeare, as in Lady Anne's
lines denouncing her husband's murderer:
O, CURSED be the hand that made these holes!
CURSED the HEART that had the HEART to do it!
CURSED the BLOOD that let this BLOOD from hence!
More direful hap betide that hated WRETCH
That makes us WRETCHED by the death of thee. (Richard III, 1.2.14-18)"
On pages 174-175, Vickers makes much of the answering repetition of
Lavinia in Act 1 of Titus, and the presence of "repose you here in
"Titus buries his sons with the wish
In peace and honour rest you here, my sons
...repose you here in rest (1.1.150-1)
Edward I addresses his nobles: 'Now then let us repose and rest us
heere' (636). Lavinia catches up the concluding line of Titus'
Titus. In peace and honour rest you here, my sons!
Lavinia. In peace and honour live Lord Titus long! (156-7)
Peele used this repetition of a complete line three times in Edward I:
Edward. And wil our Coronation be solemnized
Upon the fourteenth of December next.
Q. Eli. Upon the fourteenth of December next? (195-7)
Versses. I tooke the chaine and gave your Grace the rope.
Balioll. You tooke the chaine and give my Grace the rope. (2058-9; also
First, Vickers seems to confuse the repetition of a complete line with
the repetition of part of the line, as Lavinia's line is. Second, he
doesn't bother to see if Shakespeare does the same kind of thing
elsewhere. A brief perusal of the beginnings acts of two of
Shakespeare's early plays yields the following examples:
Sam. ...I will be civil with
the maids; I will cut off their heads.
Gre: The heads of the maids?
Sam: Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads,
take it in what sense thou wilt. (R&J 1.1.22-26)
Sal. Then let's make haste away, and look unto
War. Unto the main? O father, Maine is lost!
That Maine which by main force Warwick did win,
And would have kept so long as breath did last!
Main chance, father, you meant, but I meant Maine. (2H6 1.2.208-212)
It seems to me that the repetition of one character's line by the first
line of the next character must be a commonplace in the theatre of the
time, but forgive me if I'm too lazy to check. It also seems to me that
the conjunction of "repose" and "rest" must also be a commonplace. Here
are three examples from Shakespeare. Notice that the line from 2H6 is
almost identical in form and context to the line Vickers quotes from
Jul. As sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast. (R&J 2.2.123-124)
King. Well, for this night we will repose us here. (2H6, 2.1.196)
Here she exclaims against repose and rest. (Luc.757)
Vickers likewise never bothers to consider that Peele may have written
Edward I after Titus and the H6 plays, and hence the influence would
have gone in the opposite direction. So, by determining that both cats
and dogs have two eyes, Vickers has proven, using the "cool forensics"
of science, that they are in fact the same animal.
Bate apparently has not checked any of this. Bate also has decided that
"If we have any respect for the rules of evidence, then the
co-authorship of Henry VIII must be an established fact." I hardly see
it as an established fact, more like an opinion, which is not shared by
all. I can recommend R. A. Foakes essay in the 1950's Arden edition for
a contrary opinion on H8 (and please don't make the "But it's not the
latest scholarship!" argument. Vickers has no problem using Timberlake's
1931 book or Baldwin's ancient convolutions when he needs them).
Bates concludes with this astounding statement:
""Romantic Shakespeare", with his unblotted manuscripts and solo
inspiration, has had a very long run for his money. What we need now is
a "pragmatic Shakespeare" who is at once back among his fellows and
alive to co-authorial reconstitution even after his physical death. In
the past century, the quartos held sway because of their assumed
closeness to the master's own hand. In this one, we will, I believe,
return to the first folio, a book attributed to William Shakespeare but
actually "co-authored" by the many different hands that shaped the plays
in the theatre and prepared them for the press."
I don't know about you, but I'm going to stick with Ben Jonson's
assessment of Shakespeare as the "soul of the age". It's impossible for
me to believe that Jonson, Heminge and Condell would have bothered to
put together a book of Shakespeare's plays if they did not believe him
to be the sole author. Nor can I believe that Meres and others would
have mentioned Shakespeare if he were principally a collaborator. Bates
seems to believe that there are only two possibilities, the perfect
Shakespeare who never had to blot line (surely that is hyperbole), or
Shakespeare as a collaborator. The real Shakespeare, however, probably
wrote like any other writer, revising his own work as he went along, and
borrowing, sometimes liberally, the words and phrases that surrounded
him in the theatre and his literary life.
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